Live coverage: Georgia Senate runoffs
Georgia voters headed to the polls Tuesday in the state’s two Senate runoffs that will ultimately determine control of the Senate.
Republican David Perdue (Ga.), whose Senate term officially ended Sunday, is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff, while Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is battling a challenge from Raphael Warnock.
The competitive races have been at the center of the U.S. political universe for weeks, with Republicans needing to win at least one of the races to preserve their majority in the upper chamber.
More than 3 million Georgians voted early in the races.
Polls are set to close at 7 p.m. ET. Stay here for live coverage.
As counting continues in Georgia, here’s where we stand:
– Multiple networks and The Associated Press are projecting that Warnock defeated Loeffler, giving Democrats one more seat in the Senate.
– The runoff between Ossoff and Perdue is still a virtual tie with the candidates separated by just a few thousand votes and with outstanding votes in heavily Democratic areas.
– Democrats are optimistic and appear to be on the precipice of gaining control of the Senate.
The Hill’s campaign team is calling it a night, but be sure to check back Wednesday for updates about these crucial races.
NBC News and CBS News have declared Warnock the winner over Loeffler, putting Democrats on the precipice of controlling the Senate.
The Ossoff-Perdue race is much closer and it could be some time before that race is called, although Ossoff has a slight advantage and the outstanding ballots appear to be concentrated in Democratic strongholds.
The DeKalb County elections director announced early on Wednesday that the remaining 9,000 ballots in the county will be manually scanned due to technical issues.
The county is expected to play a deciding role in the two races.
Ossoff’s campaign sounded a note of optimism early Wednesday morning as election workers continued counting votes in his runoff against Perdue.
“When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate,” Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster said in a statement. “The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant.”
“We look forward to seeing the process through in the coming hours and moving ahead so Jon can start fighting for all Georgians in the U.S. Senate.”
Perdue currently leads Ossoff in the vote count by less than a tenth of a percentage point. And with the largest number of outstanding ballots expected to come out of Democratic-leaning DeKalb County, Ossoff appears poised to add to his vote total and potentially overtake Perdue.
Democrat Raphael Warnock declared victory in his runoff election against Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) early Wednesday morning, as incoming vote tallies painted an increasingly optimistic picture for Democratic efforts to win control of the Senate.
“We were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible,” Warnock said.
“So Georgia I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me and I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election.”
The outcome of the race between Warnock and Loeffler — one of two Senate runoffs that took place on Tuesday — hasn’t been called yet. As Warnock spoke he led Loeffler by less than 1 percentage point.
Loeffler called for every vote in her race to be counted and did not offer any indication she planned to concede during an address to supporters shortly after midnight.
“It’s worth it for this election to last into tomorrow. We’re going to make sure that every vote is counted,” she said. “We have a path to victory and we’re staying on it.”
Loeffler’s comments come as Warnock leads her 50.41 percent to 49.59 percent.
Stacey Abrams, praised by Democrats for her organizing efforts that helped turn the state blue at the presidential level, says Warnock and Ossoff are on a “strong path” as the number of votes that remain to be counted dwindles.
With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path. But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared. A few miles to go…but well done!
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) January 6, 2021
With 95 percent of votes counted, Warnock leads Loeffler by 35,000 votes. Perdue and Ossoff are effectively tied and appear to be headed for the wire.
The latest vote drop from DeKalb County outside of Atlanta has narrowed both races, putting Warnock and Perdue in the lead. The votes from the county, which are still being county have put Perdue at 50.04 percent and Ossoff at 49.96 percent. Warnock leads Loeffler 50.37 percent to 49.63 percent.
Sterling acknowledged that Ossoff and Warnock will “likely take the lead” in their respective Senate runoffs once vote tallies out of heavily Democratic DeKalb County begin to come in.
DeKalb, which includes the suburbs of Atlanta, has some 171,000 votes left to be reported. Those ballots are expected to lean heavily toward Ossoff and Warnock, giving the two Democrats a critical boost.
“This is going to be a huge boon for the Democratic candidates and a big hit to the Republicans who have built up a lead over time,” Sterling told CNN in an interview. “But again, there’s lots of nickels and dimes in the rest of those rural counties in Georgia that could come in and balance out some of this.”
Of course, it’s possible that Loeffler and Perdue can still win their respective races, although Warnock and Ossoff are likely to benefit more from the votes that remain to be counted; most of them are in Democratic strongholds, such as DeKalb and Fulton counties, where Atlanta itself is located.
Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s election systems manager, told CNN’s Amara Walker that Trump will be responsible if Perdue and Loeffler lose their races on Tuesday.
“It will fall squarely on the shoulders of President Trump and his actions since Nov. 3,” he said. “When you tell people, your vote doesn’t count and has been stolen, and people start to believe that, then you go to the two senators and ask the secretary of state to resign and trigger a civil war in the Republican Party when we need to unite, all of that stems with his decisionmaking since the Nov. 3 election.”
Georgia’s election systems manager warned of a drawn-out vote count on Tuesday that could leave the four Senate campaigns in suspense for hours.
“I refer to it as a nickel and dime, scratching and clawing over the next two hours as these come in,” Gabriel Sterling told reporters at a news conference, adding: “It’s going to be a long night for all the campaigns here.”
Dozens of counties have already finished tallying their votes. But millions of ballots have yet to be counted, including in large Democratic-leaning counties like Fulton, where Atlanta is located.
The largest tranche of votes left to count is in DeKalb County, Sterling said. Ossoff carried DeKalb in the November election by a staggering 64-point margin.
Sterling said on Tuesday, however, while a few large pockets of votes in Democratic-leaning areas remained to be counted, there were many smaller pockets of votes in Republican-leaning areas that have been added up yet.
“It could be a seesaw for the rest of the evening,” he said.
With roughly 79 percent of the vote in, counting is going faster than expected in both races.
One of the reasons why the vote is coming in at a faster rate than the November general election is the fact that there are fewer races on the ballot this time. On top of that, turnout appears to be lower this time around, giving officials fewer ballots to count.
Additionally, while millions of Georgians cast their ballots prior to election day, county officials were able to process absentee ballots before Jan. 5.
Two-thirds of the vote has been counted in the Peach State and incoming results show a narrow race.
Perdue leads Ossoff 50.26 percent to 49.74 percent, while Warnock leads Loeffler 50.1 percent to 49.9 percent. An estimated 68 percent of votes have been counted.
The Trump campaign is once again fundraising off unsubstantiated allegations of voter fraud in Georgia as votes are being counted.
The campaign sent this text to donors and supporters about an hour after polls closed: “Pres. Trump: Is it true that voting machines ‘stopped working’ earlier in Georgia today? Are Dems trying to STEAL this Election? FIGHT BACK!” The text includes a link to a fundraising page.
Georgia’s secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has said there was a minor issue with some paper ballot scanners in Columbia County this morning but that the issue was resolved by 10 a.m. and that voting never stopped.
In a statement, Raffensperger said the election is “running smoothly” and that there is no evidence of mass irregularities.
And this issue in Columbia Co. was resolved hours ago and our office informed the public about it in real time. The votes of everyone will be protected and counted. Sorry you received old intel Mr. President. https://t.co/qqGmnIqwsM
— Gabriel Sterling (@GabrielSterling) January 5, 2021
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has spent weeks on the receiving end of President Trump’s fury after defending his state’s handling of the 2020 presidential election.
But that didn’t stop him from boosting his party and its Senate candidates at an election watch party in Atlanta on Tuesday night.
“Thank you so much for helping us hold the line here in Georgia,” Kemp told a crowd. “As you all know, we’re the red wall that is trying to stop socialism in this great state and we can’t thank you enough for the hours of sweat, your financial resources, your time that you have given.”
Kemp has largely defended his state’s handling of the Nov. 3 election, pushing back against Trump’s repeated assertions that the presidential race was tainted by widespread voter fraud, systemic irregularities and poor election management on the part of state and county officials.
In an escalation of his criticism, Trump called last week for Kemp to resign, calling him an “obstructionist who refuses to admit that we won Georgia, BIG!”
Still, Kemp has continued to stand by Loeffler and Perdue, even as the two senators have stayed quiet on Trump’s criticism.
The Georgia Senate races haven’t only set a state record for turnout in a runoff.
Nearly $500 million has been spent on advertising in the runoff campaigns, according to AdImpact, a firm that tracks ad spending.
— AdImpact, formerly Advertising Analytics (@ad_impact) January 5, 2021
It’s not all that surprising given how much money the candidates have raised over the past two months. But the hefty ad spending shows just how much campaigns and party organizations are willing to drop on races that are expected to be won at the margins.
Ossoff leads the pack in ad spending at $87.6 million. He’s followed by Warnock, who dropped $72.5 million. Perdue and Loeffler’s campaigns spent about $50 million each.
Nevertheless, outside groups aligned with the Republicans have made up the difference, spending roughly three times as much as Democratic groups backing Ossoff and Warnock.
Nearly 3.1 million voters had already cast their ballots in advance of the Jan. 5 runoffs, either absentee or early in person. Military and overseas ballots must arrive at election offices by Friday, more than 17,000 of which are still outstanding.
Turnout in the dual Senate runoffs has already set a record in Georgia, beating a record previously set in 2008, when former Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) faced off against Democrat Jim Martin.
Georgia voters—If you’re in line before the polls close at 7 pm, stay there. You have the right to vote, no matter how long it takes. If you have questions, call the Georgia voter protection hotline at 1-888-730-5816. Let’s bring this home.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 5, 2021
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