The runoff elections in Georgia on Tuesday will be a high-stakes competitions that will determine which party controls the Senate and set the agenda for the new administration in Washington.
Two Republican incumbents, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are fighting for their seats. If their Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both win, the Democrats will recapture the Senate majority.
The control of the Senate effectively sets the parameters of the first two years of office of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. A Republican-led Senate would make it difficult for him to fill his cabinet, pass laws, and advance his political priorities.
Here’s what we know about the two runoff elections ahead of Election Day.
How did the Democrats and Republicans fare in the early vote?
According to the University of Florida, three million people have already voted in the runoff, nearly 40 percent of all registered voters in the state US election project. That total exceeds the 2.1 million ballot papers that were cast in the last Senate runoff in 2008.
The early voting dates suggest the races are very competitive. There are some pointers that the Democrats had a larger percentage of early voters than they did in the general election, raising hopes for a party that has traditionally been the underdog in runoff elections. The Atlanta area, home to the Democrats’ political base, had some of the highest voter turnout rates in the state’s early polls.
The outcome now depends on whether Republicans can overcome early Democratic gains when they vote in the elections on Tuesday. Vote rates were lowest in the conservative northwest corner of the state, worrying some Republicans. However, others argue that their supporters tend to vote in greater numbers on election day and hope that President Trump’s rally on Monday in Dalton, a northwestern city, will bring more Republicans to the polls.
The Democrats’ early electoral advantage helped them beat Mr Trump in the November election when Mr Biden won Almost 400,000 more postal ballot papers in the state.
When are the voting deadlines?
For those planning to vote in person on Tuesday, polling day, polling stations open at 7 a.m. east coast time and close at 7 p.m. east. Anyone in line at 7pm. can stay in line to vote.
Postal voting slips must be received by post or placed in a dropbox by 7 p.m. Counting Tuesday. (The Democrats warned voters Monday not to post ballot papers at this point, but to put them in drop boxes.) Military and foreign ballot papers must be postmarked by Tuesday.
What can we expect on election day?
Strategists from both parties are unsure of what to expect after a close race. Demographic change has changed politics in Georgia and turned the traditionally conservative southern state into a hotly contested battlefield.
In November, Mr. Perdue received 49.7 percent of the vote, just below the majority he would have needed to avoid a runoff, while his challenger, Mr. Ossoff, had 47.9 percent – a difference of about 88,000 votes. The field was overcrowded in the other Senate competition: Mr. Warnock finished with 32.9 percent of the vote and Ms. Loeffler with 25.9 percent.
It is not easy to model the electorate for these rematches: never a runoff election in Georgia determined the balance of power in the Senate – or was caught in the middle of a pandemic.
Both parties expect a significantly higher turnout than in the 2008 Senate runoff, although few analysts expect numbers close to the five million Georgia voters who voted in the November general election.
At this point in the race, voter turnout is 23 percent lower than it was in the November election, according to the state compiled by Ryan Anderson, a data analyst in Atlanta. About 1.2 million people who voted at the beginning of the general election have not yet voted in the runoff elections.
When will we know the results?
The Georgia State Election Board extended some emergency provisions from the November election, such as: B. the storage of dropboxes for postal ballot papers. Some of the rules have been adjusted to encourage faster counting so that winners can take their seats earlier. The new congress was sworn in on Sunday.
Districts were required to start scanning and processing ballots at least a week before the election, but they cannot start counting or tabulating until the polls are completed on Tuesday. These new rules can lead to faster results, although in a close race, most Georgians (and everyone else) may go to sleep before the news outlets have enough results to declare a winner.
In November, it was a week and a half after Election Day before it became clear that Mr Biden had won the state.
Republicans are expected to take the lead early on election night, both because the more conservative areas of the state tend to report results faster and because in-person votes that favored Republicans during the pandemic tend to be released earlier will. Highly democratic counties, including the Atlanta suburbs that helped Mr Biden win, have historically taken longer to count votes.
And yes, there could be another counting round. Under Georgian law, the losing candidate can request a recount, in which the election officials would scan the ballot papers again if the gap between the candidates is within half a percentage point.
After several votes last year, state officials are preparing for any eventuality. Deputy Foreign Minister Jordan Fuchs has stated that the requirement for a full recount – as in November – does not apply to runoff elections.
How did the parties strategize?
Runoff elections have traditionally been relatively sleepy competitions with a lower turnout that favored Republicans due to a decline in Democrats, especially black voters, after the general election. (The runoff election itself was developed by white Georgians in the 1960s to dilute the power of black voters.)
Not this year. A staggering influx of political spending flooded the state as campaign activists, party officials and outside groups came to the races. According to Ad Impact, an ad tracking company, nearly $ 500 million has been spent on advertising to saturate the radio waves at unprecedented levels.
Democrats have worked to keep voter turnout high, step up their public relations work, target color voters with targeted advertising campaigns, and deploy a flotilla of high-performing political stars for the state. As Mr Trump was preparing for his rally on Monday night, Mr Biden stood up for the Democrats in Atlanta that afternoon.
The drive to reach new voters, led by Stacey Abrams, has led an estimated 800,000 residents to vote for this election cycle – a wave that voter mobilization groups have been trying to build on since November. Some Democrats and voting rights groups have raised concerns about polling station access and possible repression.
The democratic effort could work: Early voting data shows that nearly 31 percent of voters who cast ballots are black, an increase of about three percentage points over their share in the general election.
Republicans believe that some voters who supported Mr Biden will want control of Democratic power in Washington. However, their efforts were hampered by Mr. Trump’s refusal to end the previous contest process.
The release of an audio recording of a phone call during which Mr Trump pressured Georgian Foreign Secretary Brad Raffensperger to scrap the election results has rattled the runoff election in recent days.
Some Republican strategists fear that Mr Trump’s attacks on the presidential election results will hamper their efforts to win back some of the suburban moderate voters who fled their party in November.
A fringe Conservative group is also encouraging Republicans to boycott the election in support of Mr Trump’s baseless claims of fraudulent vote counting that could undermine the margins of the two incumbents.