ATLANTA (CN) — The Georgia governor’s race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams is now a statistical dead heat, and according to a poll released Thursday, a runoff election in December is becoming exceedingly more likely.
The NBC News/Marist poll revealed that among likely voters, Kemp is polling at 46 percent to Abrams’ 45 percent. The one-point difference between the two is statistically insignificant, and fall well within the poll’s margin of error.
Among a larger pool representing all registered voters, Abrams and Kemp are tie at 47 percent.
According to the poll, Libertarian candidate Ted Metz is polling at 4 percent. Undecided voters account for another 4 percent.
In a head-to-head race without Metz on the ballot, Kemp’s lead creeps up to 49 percent to Abrams’ 47 percent.
Early in-person voting has been underway in Georgia since mid-October and will last until Nov. 2, the Friday before Election Day. If neither Kemp or Abrams receives 50 percent of the vote on Nov. 6, the race will continue in a Dec. 4 runoff.
According to GeorgiaVotes.com, a website that analyzes data from the secretary of state’s office, 944,499 people have voted during the early voting period as of Friday.
Abrams, who is campaigning to become the first black woman elected governor in American history, has focused her primary and general election strategies on turning out minority and young voters. In a two-way race between Abrams and Kemp, the new poll shows Abrams leading among black voters 84 percent to 11 percent.
According to the polling, Kemp, who is white, has a 2-to-1 lead with white voters, polling at 66 percent compared to Abrams’ 31 percent.
Kemp, who currently serves as Georgia’s secretary of state, has spent much of the early voting period defending himself against an onslaught of allegations accusing his office of voter suppression. Kemp has been named in five separate lawsuits in the last two weeks.
A lawsuit filed in federal court on Oct. 11 accused Kemp’s office of preventing over 50,000 voter registrations from being processed under Georgia’s controversial “exact match” law. The law requires information on voter registrations, absentee ballots and ballot applications to exactly match information contained in the government’s databases.
Simple errors like the transposition of a number or letter, the accidental deletion of a hyphen or the addition of an extra space could cause a registration to be rejected.
An independent investigation by the Associated Press found that 70 percent of the frozen applications were submitted by black voters.
On Oct. 15, civil rights groups filed a federal lawsuit against Kemp claiming that Gwinnett County, Georgia’s second most-populous county, excessively rejects absentee ballots due to small errors.
And on Oct. 16, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit against Kemp claiming that Gwinnett County election officials are rejecting absentee ballots over allegedly invalid signatures.
A federal judge issued an injunction Thursday to stop officials from rejecting any absentee ballot that includes a signature that they believe does not match the signature on record with the government. Kemp’s attorneys filed an emergency motion Thursday evening announcing their intention to appeal the judge’s order.
Despite all this, Georgia has managed to shatter its all-time voter registration record, with over 7 million active and inactive voters currently on the rolls.
According to the polling, voters are strongly divided on party lines, with 96 percent of Democrats in Abrams’ corner and 94 percent of Republicans firmly on Kemp’s side. Abrams is polling more favorably with independents than Kemp though, with 46 percent in her camp compared to 36 percent for Kemp.
Voters are also split by a gender and education gap.
According to the poll, women and college graduates favor Abrams by a 14 point and 7 point margin respectively.
Even with such a polarized electorate, the possibility remains that third-party votes could upset the razor thin margin between the candidates.
During Tuesday’s televised debate, Metz encouraged voters to cast a “protest vote” in his favor.
“This is going to be a runoff anyway,” Metz said. “If you’re tired of the two-party system and the two-party tyranny of the oligarchs running the planet, then a vote for me is a protest vote to show them that you are sick and tired of the same old stuff.”
“They’re trying to pull us apart and vote for one of the two teams. There are more people that are more interested in hearing a third voice than voting for team red or team blue,” Metz said.
Four people have also qualified as write-in candidates in the race.