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Why Georgia is on the minds of many with runoff elections

Races on Jan. 5 will determine control of Senate

Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Warnock is running in a special election on Jan. 5. against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo by Jessica McGowan
Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Warnock is running in a special election on Jan. 5. against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo by Jessica McGowan (Getty Images)

Now that we have a projected winner in the presidential election, did you think the nation’s attention on the election would start to dwindle?

Think again.

The race for the White House might have been decided, with Democratic challenger Joe Biden defeating current President Donald Trump, but the race for Senate control is still up in the air -- and it won’t be decided until the first week of 2021.

Many eyes will be on the state of Georgia, which on Jan. 5 will decide two Senate seats with runoff elections.


What’s a runoff election?

Runoff elections are second elections held if no candidate reaches the necessary requirement of votes during the first election.

Only two states, Georgia and Louisiana, require candidates to receive a majority percentage of the vote in the general election. Every other state allows a candidate to win with the biggest plurality of the vote, even it doesn’t reach a required percentage.

Why is there a runoff election in Georgia?

In Georgia, a candidate is required to accumulate 50% of the vote. If that doesn’t happen, then the top two vote-getters square off in a runoff election.

Most recently, no candidate reached the 50% threshold, so there will be runoffs between Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, and Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

Historically, Georgia is a state that has tended to favor Republican candidates, although it appears as if Biden will become the first Democrat to win Georgia in the presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Why are the Georgia runoff races so important?

As it stands now, Republicans hold 48 Senate seats and the Democrats have 46, but two other seats are held by Independents who are aligned with the Democrats, so essentially, it’s a 48-48 tie with four seats still up for grabs.

While Senate races in Alaska and North Carolina are too close to call, Republican incumbents Dan Sullivan (Alaska) and Thom Tillis (North Carolina) are leading in the vote count in their respective races at the moment.

But even if Sullivan and Tillis prevail to bring the Republicans to 50 Senate seats, what happens with the Georgia runoff elections can still determine control.

If Warnock and Ossoff both win, the total will be an even split at 50 seats apiece, but incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will have power to cast any tie-breaking vote, should there ever be a vote strictly along party lines.

That would mean, essentially, a majority for the Democrats.

Assuming Sullivan and Tillis win, Republicans need just one of either Loeffler or Perdue to prevail, so they can maintain their majority.

Having control of the Senate is critical for judicial appointments and policy measures Biden will try to push through.


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