Georgia officials began counting the final votes of the nation's turbulent 2020 election season on Tuesday night as polls closed in two critical Senate runoff races that will determine control of the US Senate and, in turn, the fate of President-elect Joe Biden’s legislative agenda. While voting was strong in some spots, state election officials reported light turnout early in the day, including across the deeply conservative region where President Trump held a rally Monday night to encourage GOP voters to turn out in force, the AP reports. In one contest, Republican Kelly Loeffler, a 50-year-old former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago by the state’s governor, faced Democrat Raphael Warnock, 51, who serves as the senior pastor of the Atlanta church where Martin Luther King Jr. grew up and preached.
The other election pitted 71-year-old former business executive David Perdue, a Republican who held his Senate seat until his term expired on Sunday, against Democrat Jon Ossoff, a former congressional aide. At just 33 years old, Ossoff would be the Senate’s youngest member. Pollsters consider both races toss-ups. More:
- Republicans pull ahead. With around 87% of votes counted, Loeffler was ahead of Warnock 51.1% to 48.9%, and Perdue was leading Ossoff 51.5% to 48.5%, per the New York Times. The Times notes that if the races remain tight, the winner may not be known for days, as in the presidential election.
- Senate control was biggest factor. The unusual importance for the runoffs has transformed Georgia, once a solidly Republican state, into one of the nation’s premier battlegrounds during the final days of Trump's presidency. AP VoteCast found that 6 in 10 Georgia voters say Senate party control was the most important factor in their vote.
- GOP voters believe fraud claims. The survey of 3,600 voters in the runoff elections also found that 7 in 10 GOP voters agree with Trump's false assertion that Biden was not the legitimately elected president.
- Voters from both sides cite Trump. Trump wasn't on the ballot Tuesday, but the president and his attempts to overturn his election loss drove turnout among both Democrats and Republicans, reports the Washington Post.
(Pollsters consider both races toss-ups.)