Georgia runoff Senate races: When will we know the winners? When will the election be certified?
The eyes of the nation are on Georgia Tuesday, as voters head to the polls for a pair of runoff races that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.
For incumbent Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, the race is the last chance to stop Democrats from controlling the entire Legislative Branch of the federal government — they’ve been calling themselves the “firewall” blocking socialism.
For Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, a win would mean that President-elect Joe Biden would have a much easier time passing legislation through a Democrat-controlled House and Senate — but Ossoff and Warnock both have to win their races for that to happen.
Could there be a second runoff?
Yes, it’s possible, but it's extremely unlikely. In Georgia, the only way a second runoff could happen is if both candidates receive the exact same number of votes. In the case of a tie, another runoff is held with only the tied race.
When will we know the winners?
If November is any indication, it could be days before the winners are known. COVID-19 has led to an astronomical surge in absentee ballots, which take longer to count. About 1.37 million absentee ballots were requested and 70.3% were returned. The ballots can be processed ahead of time — removed from envelopes and prepared — but can't be tallied until Election Day.
When will the election be certified?
Georgia counties will have until Jan. 15 to certify results. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, has until Jan. 22 to certify statewide results. But there could be court fights or moves by officials across Georgia’s 159 counties that draw the races out to the buzzer.
When will the winners be sworn in?
The rest of the 117th congress was sworn in on Sunday, but the winners of Georgia’s runoff will be sworn in after their victory is certified. David Perdue’s term ended Sunday, and his seat will remain vacant until a winner is decided. Kelly Loeffler will retain her seat in the Senate until 2023 if she wins, but if she loses, the seat will go to Raphael Warnock.
Could there be a recount?
Yes, if either race ends with the winner holding less than a .5 percent margin, a recount can be requested. But the 50-percent-plus-one requirement for winning is mathematically applied in a runoff, since there are only two candidates. The candidate with more votes will automatically have more than 50 percent of the vote.
Can I vote in the runoff if I didn't vote in the General Election?
Yes, as long as you're a registered Georgia voter, you can vote in the runoff, regardless of participation in the Nov. 3 election. More than 100,000 people who did not vote in November were early voters this time around for the Senate runoff races.
When can I vote?
Polls are open in Georgia from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Election Day. Absentee ballots must be returned by 7 p.m. on Election Day to be counted.
Will Peebles is the enterprise reporter for Savannah Morning News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @willpeeblessmn on Twitter.