Georgia sets new voting record for runoffs

More people cast ballots on the first day of early voting in Georgia’s Senate runoffs this week than those that did so when early voting opened ahead of the 2020 general election.

Roughly 168,000 Georgians went to the polls on Monday, the first day to vote early in-person in the state’s two critical Senate runoff elections, according to numbers provided by the Georgia secretary of state’s office. By comparison, some 128,000 voted on the first day of early voting for the November general election.

Another 314,000 people cast absentee ballots on the first day of the early-voting period. 

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The first-day early in-person turnout broke a record previously set in October when early in-person voting began for the 2020 general election.

Since then, the numbers have only continued to rise. As of Friday morning, more than 1.1 million people had voted in the Jan. 5 Georgia runoff elections, according to numbers collated by Georgia Votes, a website that tracks early voting data. 

That lags only slightly behind the roughly 1.2 million that had voted at this point in the 2020 general election. 

Still, the turnout is stunningly high, given the timing of the two runoffs, in which Sens. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerDraft Georgia congressional lines target McBath, shore up Bourdeaux Warnock picks up major abortion rights group's endorsement in reelection bid Trump endorses Hershel Walker for Georgia Senate seat MORE (R-Ga.) and David PerdueDavid PerdueDraft Georgia congressional lines target McBath, shore up Bourdeaux Trump stokes GOP tensions in Georgia GOP sees Biden crises as boon for midterm recruitment MORE (R-Ga.) are facing Democrats Raphael WarnockRaphael WarnockTom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event Democratic incumbents bolster fundraising advantage in key Senate races Warnock raises .5 million in third quarter MORE and Jon OssoffJon OssoffHerschel Walker raises .7 million since start of Senate campaign Former Georgia Senate candidate says the seeds of the 'big lie' were sown 'many years' before Nov. 2020 Photos of the Week: Congressional Baseball Game, ashen trees and a beach horse MORE, respectively.

Already, some 24,000 people who did not vote in the November general election have cast ballots in the runoff, according to The U.S. Elections Project, another website that tracks early voting.

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At stake in the Jan. 5 runoff elections is party control of the Senate. Republicans currently hold a 50-48 seat edge in the upper chamber and a pair of Democratic wins in the Georgia runoffs would effectively hand Democrats an evenly divided chamber, in which Vice President-elect Kamala HarrisKamala HarrisRepublicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' Democrats' reconciliation bill breaks Biden's middle class tax pledge We have a presidential leadership crisis — and it's only going to get worse MORE would cast the tie-breaking vote.

If either or both Democrats lose their runoffs, however, it would mean that President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenPressure grows for breakthrough in Biden agenda talks State school board leaves national association saying they called parents domestic terrorists Sunday shows preview: Supply chain crisis threaten holiday sales; uncertainty over whether US can sustain nationwide downward trend in COVID-19 cases MORE would face a divided Congress when he takes office next month, complicating efforts to implement his agenda. 

Both parties are spending heavily in the runoffs, with hundreds of millions of dollars expected to flood into Georgia ahead of Jan. 5. And the races have already attracted the most influential figures in both parties. President TrumpDonald TrumpMcAuliffe takes tougher stance on Democrats in Washington Democrats troll Trump over Virginia governor's race Tom Glavine, Ric Flair, Doug Flutie to join Trump for Herschel Walker event MORE traveled to the state earlier this month and Biden stumped for Warnock and Ossoff in Atlanta this week.