The Georgia runoffs will decide who controls the Senate. Here's what you should know.
For the first time since 1992, Georgia is considered a swing state as two runoff races for Senate seats will be held simultaneously in January.
The races pit two Republican incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock. If Ossoff and Warnock win, the Senate will be split 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris having the power to cast a deciding vote. If Perdue and Loeffler win, though, the Republicans will hold a slim 52-48 majority.
All eyes are on Georgia as voters will ultimately determine which party will gain the majority. Here’s what you need to know about the races.
When are the Georgia runoffs?
In November, none of the senatorial candidates garnered 50% or more of the vote, which is required by state law. Since no candidate reached the required threshold, state law requires a runoff election to determine the sole winner.
Both runoffs will be held on Jan. 5, with early in-person voting starting on Dec. 14 –– the same day the Electoral College is set to formally cast its votes for President-elect Joe Biden.
Why are the runoffs so important?
The races, which will determine which party takes control of the Senate, will be held during the middle of President Donald Trump’s final days in office –– as he continues to push baseless claims that the presidential election was rigged with voter fraud running rampant.
If both Democrats win the seats, it'll split the Senate 50-50, leaving Harris as the tie-breaker. The other way around will give Republicans control of the Senate, and even if one of the Republicans win, it could limit Biden's ability to pass legislation and it may interfere with the president-elect's cabinet picks.
What's the latest news out of Georgia?
While voter registration for the runoffs came to a close on Monday, the state is preparing for its first wave of mail-in and early in-person voting, starting on Dec. 14.
About one million voters have requested mail-in ballots for the runoffs and nearly 43,000 voters have returned their ballots, The New York Times reported. Although Georgians have until Jan. 1 to request a mail-in ballot, it's encouraged to request one and send it out well before the Jan. 5 deadline to avoid any mail delays or other issues.
All four senatorial candidates were also set to engage in debates this past weekend, though Perdue refused to participate in his debate with Ossoff. Democratic challenger Ossoff called Perdue a "coward" for not attending, adding, "It shows an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement for Georgia’s senior U.S. senator to believe he shouldn’t have to debate at a moment like this in our history."
Throughout Loeffler and Warnock's debate, though, neither candidate deviated much from already established policies and slogans. Still, when Loeffler was asked about Georgia's results and Trump's behavior toward state officials like Gov. Brian Kemp, she refused to answer if she thought Trump won.
Has Georgia certified its presidential election results?
On Monday, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger recertified the state’s presidential election results for the third time, again finding Biden victorious with almost 12,000 more votes than the president.
“Like other Republicans, I’m disappointed our candidate didn’t win Georgia’s electoral votes,” Raffensperger said during a press conference Monday, adding, “As secretary of state, I believe that the numbers we have presented today are correct. The numbers reflect the verdict of the people.”
This round of recertification, though, is yet another blow to the president’s tireless attempts to overturn the election’s results. Trump hasn’t given up on Georgia just yet –– continuing attacks on Georgia officials, including Raffensperger, for not overturning the results.
Responding to Trump
During a press conference Monday, Raffensperefer disputed the president’s claims of widespread voter fraud, adding that the misinformation is hurting the state.
"Continuing to make debunked claims of a stolen election is hurting our state," Raffensperger said. "The President has his due process rights and those are available to him. It's time we all focus on the future and growth."
Although Trump has stated that he will continue to fight the election results, legal challenges to reverse or delay certification of results continue to fail. On Monday, a Georgia judge also dismissed the “Kraken” lawsuit, which aimed to reverse the state’s results and was launched by former Trump lawyer Sidney Powell.
“Today is an important day for election integrity in Georgia and across the country,” Raffensperger said in a statement. “The claims in the Kraken lawsuit prove to be as mythological as the creature for which they’re named. Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably.”
Party strategies: The fight for dominance
During a rally in Georgia on Saturday, Trump ranted to his supporters about his loss and continued attacks on Republican state leaders who have refused to undermine the state’s certified results. While Trump advocated for Republican incumbents Perdue and Loeffler, the president mainly focused his efforts to denounce Biden’s victory and advocate for his re-election.
But some Georgia GOP officials think the president’s attacks on the state’s election process could hurt the incumbents' chances of holding their seats and the Republican majority in the Senate come January.
The president also pressured Kemp to hold a special legislative session to overturn the state’s results for the presidential election. Kemp refused, though, later releasing a statement on the matter.
"While we understand four members of the Georgia Senate are requesting the convening of a special session of the General Assembly, doing this in order to select a separate slate of presidential electors is not an option that is allowed under state or federal law,” the statement read.