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Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: Why They Matter, What's at Stake, and When We'll Find Out Results

Here’s why today’s race will define Joe Biden’s presidency.

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Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: Why They Matter, What's at Stake, and When We'll Find Out Results

Here’s why today’s race will define Joe Biden’s presidency.

Control of the U.S. Senate hangs in the balance of two runoff elections taking place today in Georgia, where voters will fill both of the state’s seats and effectively determine how much President-elect Joe Biden will be able to accomplish during his first two years in office.

Right now, the Senate is split 48-50 in favor of the Republican party, led by majority leader Mitch McConnell. In a rare turn of events, both Senate seats are up for grabs. In 2019 Kelly Loeffler was appointed to fill Republican Jonny Isakson’s seat after he resigned for health reasons — under state law, Loeffler must win against Democratic challenger Rev Raphael Warnock in today’s election to keep her spot. The second Senate seat was just vacated by Republican David Perdue, whose term ended on January 3. Perdue is looking to reclaim his position and will face off against Jon Ossoff, a 33-year-old former congressional staffer.

As for why today’s elections are dubbed “runoff” elections? In Georgia, a candidate must reach at least 50 percent of the vote to be declared the winner (in other words, a simple majority doesn’t suffice). Because candidates in both Senate races failed to meet Georgia’s majority threshold back in November, state law mandates runoff elections be held. (Unsurprisingly, the very existence runoff elections can be traced back to historically racist voting practices in the state.)

If both Democratic candidates win, the Senate will be split 50-50. In the case of a tie, the vice president casts a vote, leaving Kamala Harris to hand control over to the Democrats. If Democrats do indeed triumph, Biden will have a much easier time implementing progressive legislation on key issues such as climate change and health care. If Republicans maintain control, McConnell will no doubt do his best to block any progress Biden hopes to make.

Even with early voting, Georgia cannot legally begin counting ballots until polls close at 7 p.m. EST.  Military and overseas ballots may arrive as late as Friday, meaning definitive results likely won’t become clear for days. You can keep up with the results at news outlets including CNN and NBC, which are both posting live updates.

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