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Wednesday, January 06, 2021

LIVE UPDATES: Perdue fights for his political life

LIVE UPDATES: Perdue fights for his political life

Republican Senator from Georgia David Perdue (L) and his wife Bonnie participate in a rally at DeKalb-Peachtree Airport during the first day of early voting in US Senate runoff election in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, 14 December 2020. Perdue is running against Democrat Jon Ossoff in a 05 January 2021 runoff election.

Credit: EPA

Politics | Updated 30 minutes ago

"Race too close to call but Ossoff campaign projecting confidence it’ll win

Republican incumbent David Perdue vowed to “mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse” as he fought for his political life in a Senate runoff that was too close to call early Wednesday. 

The top aide to challenger Jon Ossoff said the Democrat expects to win because the outstanding votes are “squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant.” 

The back-and-forth came shortly after Democrat Raphael Warnock declared victory over U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the parallel Senate contest and major news networks called the race in Warnock’s favor. Loeffler, meanwhile, insisted she still had a “path to victory.” 

Republican officials are growing increasingly nervous as early runoff returns show skyrocketing Black turnout in metro Atlanta and Loeffler and Perdue underperforming in key rural and exurban strongholds. 

Here’s what else you need to know:

  • Warnock will make history as Georgia’s first Black senator and the Senate’s first Black Democrat to be elected from the deep South
  • County elections officials are still tallying votes after a relatively drama-freeElection Day, capping off an exhausting nine-week sprint since the general election
  • Democrats are feeling increasingly bullish about their chances of winning both Senate contests, though no major news outlets have declared a winner in the Perdue-Ossoff race
  • Results are pouring in much faster than they were in November because of the shorter ballot and a new requirement that county election officials process absentee ballots ahead of time. Counting will still stretch into Wednesday for some counties

On the line are two U.S. Senate seats that will determine which party controls the chamber, setting the course for President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda in Washington over the next two years. Republicans need to hold onto only one of their seats to maintain the majority in the upper chamber.

Also on the ballot is a Public Service Commission race that will help chart the state’s energy future and the utility rates Georgians pay.

ExploreGeorgia Runoff Election Results: Live voting results and news coverage
ExploreAJC’s live election results maps

Follow our live updates below:

2:40 a.m. 

DeKalb scans thousands of ballots following ‘technical issue’

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

In DeKalb County, election workers scanned thousands of ballots early Wednesday due to issues with the computer system.

Erik Burton, a county voter registration spokesperson, said DeKalb has a fail safe to prevent the erasure of any votes despite the “technical issue.” 

Several election monitors said over 18,000 ballots could’ve been affected if DeKalb had not scanned them early Wednesday.

2:20 a.m.

Perdue campaign: “We will... exhaust every legal recourse” 

The Perdue campaign broke it’s silence. In an emailed statement, spokesman John Burke said the campaign would “mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted.” 

Here’s the full statement: 

“As we’ve said repeatedly over the last several weeks and as recently as this evening, this is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate and the voices of Georgians are heard. We will mobilize every available resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all legally cast ballots are properly counted. We believe in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”

2:05 a.m.

More news outlets call race for Warnock

The Associated Press, CNN, ABC News and other major news outlets have joined NBC News in declaring Raphael Warnock the winner of Georgia’s special Senate election over Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler. 

The news now puts a Senate majority within reach for Democrats. 

2:00 a.m.

Fulton wrapping up counting for tonight 

By Ben Brasch

Fulton County is wrapping up vote tallying for the evening at the Georgia World Congress Center and will resume at 8:30 a.m. 

A county spokeswoman said there are “at least 4,000 more absentee ballots to upload” and that the next adjudication panel will meet at 9 a.m. 

1:50 a.m.

NBC News calls race for Warnock

NBC News projected that Democrat Raphael Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler in the special election to fill the remaining two years on Johnny Isakson’s Senate term. NBC is the first major network to declare a winner in either Senate contest tonight. 

1:30 a.m. 

Ossoff’s campaign manager: ‘We fully expect’ to win race 

Jon Ossoff’s campaign manager suggested the Democrat is feeling bullish about his chances of unseating Republican incumbent David Perdue as many Democratic strongholds continue to count ballots. 

“When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election to represent Georgia in the United States Senate,” said Ellen Foster in an e-mailed statement. “The outstanding vote is squarely in parts of the state where Jon’s performance has been dominant. We look forward to seeing the process through in the coming hours and moving ahead so Jon can start fighting for all Georgians in the U.S. Senate.”

With 97% of precincts reporting, Perdue is clinging to the narrowest of leads over Ossoff. Only about 1,300 votes, or 0.4% of the vote, currently stands between the two men. 

Neither Ossoff nor Perdue has delivered remarks since polls closed. 

1:15 a.m. 

Republican holds narrow lead in PSC contest

It’s constantly gotten eclipsed over the last nine weeks, but the public service commission race is also quite the nail-biter. 

Republican incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald is currently polling about 2 percentage points ahead of Democrat Daniel Blackman, with roughly 98% of precincts reporting. There are many heavily-Democratic counties still counting ballots, so the race could still get tighter. . 

Even more interesting is that McDonald, a former state legislator who’s served on the PSC for 17 years, appears to be the top Republican vote-getter of the runoffs in terms of raw votes. 

12:50 a.m.

Warnock takes victory lap

By Patricia Murphy

With a narrow but growing lead in the race to represent Georgia in the U.S. Senate, the Rev. Raphael Warnock declared victory early Wednesday morning against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. 

“I promise you this tonight, that I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia,” Warnock said. 

No major news outlets had yet to declare a winner in the contest, and Loeffler said she still had a “path to victory.”

“This is a game of inches,” Loeffler told her supporters early Wednesday. “We are going to win this election.”

Warnock used his speech to deliver a message of unity to the audience watching him on cable news outlets and social media streams across the state, not unlike the messages he issued to his parishioners as the senior pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. 

“Will we seek to destroy one another as his enemies,” the Democrat asked, “Or heed the call toward the common good, building together what Dr. King called ‘the beloved community?’”

With 97% of precincts reporting, Warnock led Loeffler by about 37,000 votes just after midnight Tuesday. Of the outstanding votes left to count, many were expected to come in from Democratic strongholds in DeKalb and Fulton counties.

If elected, Warnock would be the first Black Democratic senator from the Deep South. He would also be the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Georgia since Zell Miller in 2000.

“Whether you voted for me or not, know this,” Warnock concluded, “I hear you. I see you. Every day I’m in the United States. I will fight for you. I will fight for your family.”

Shortly before he delivered is remarks, former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams congratulated Warnock on Twitter. Abrams had hand-picked Warnock to run for the seat.

12:40 a.m.

More on the ground in DeKalb

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

More than a dozen election monitors were waiting in DeKalb’s elections office as the county continued to process ballots early Wednesday morning.

Erik Burton, a county voter registration spokesperson, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they are trying to push to finish the Election Day tabulations and round out the early voting numbers.

DeKalb’s ballots from Election Day and early voting are still remaining for today, Burton said. He added that DeKalb still has absentee ballots collected today, as well as military and overseas ballots

Round 2 of scanning and processing will begin in DeKalb at 10:30 a.m.

12:30 a.m.

Loeffler: ‘This is a game of inches’

By Greg Bluestein

In a speech to a cheering crowd of hundreds shortly after midnight, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, the first cousin of David Perdue, said the high-stakes cliffhangers would not soon be decided.

Loeffler said she still had a “path to victory” with the dwindling number of outstanding ballots.

”This is a game of inches,” she said. “We are going to win this election.”

12:10 a.m.

Warnock to deliver remarks at 12:20 a.m.

Rev. Raphael Warnock’s team just sent word that the Democrat will deliver remarks at 12:20 a.m. Here’s his speech:

12:00 a.m.

Additional ballots to be tallied across metro Atlanta

By Mark Niesse

Tens of thousands of votes, mostly from Democratic-dominated counties, remained to be counted.

Those votes include 19,000 early ballots from DeKalb County, which so far has supported the Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate with 83% of the vote each, according to the secretary of state’s office. Another 7,000 early ballots are pending from Coffee County, a more Republican area.

Additional ballots remained to be tallied in other large counties, including Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett in the metro Atlanta area.

”What we have outstanding will likely be leaning Democrat,” said Gabriel Sterling, voting system manager for the secretary of state’s office.

In Fulton County, election officials reported that cars blocked poll workers from returning absentee ballots that had been picked up from drop boxes, Sterling said. The ballots arrived, but they were delayed. Details of the incident weren’t immediately clear.

”It’s a contentious time. We want people to be patient,” Sterling said.

11:30 p.m.

Warnock, Perdue overperforming their “running mates”

By Greg Bluestein

Right now, Raphael Warnock is outperforming Jon Ossoff by about 20,000 votes, and David Perdue is outperforming fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler by roughly the same margin.

Why? For one thing, Perdue is more of a name-brand in the Georgia GOP, with a 2014 win under his belt, while Loeffler was appointed to the job by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019. Some Republicans may still favor her vanquished rival, ex-Congressman Doug Collins, over her.

As for Ossoff, Democratic strategists long thought he would trail Warnock slightly, in part because the Atlanta pastor has a longer history of political activism and entrenched support in the African-American community.

11:25 p.m.

More outlets call race for Warnock, but nothing yet from major networks

Analysts at Decision Desk HQ and Vox have declared Democrat Raphael Warnock the winner of the Georgia special election against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. But the major news outlets, including the Associated Press, have yet to project a winner for either race.

Earlier this evening, Dave Wasserman, an analyst from the respected Cook Political Report, also called the race for Warnock.

The projections came as DeKalb County uploaded the results from more than 150,000 ballots. The county, one of the bluest in the state, is expected to deliver a trove of Democratic votes to Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

11:15 p.m.

The latest from Cobb

By Meris Lutz

In Cobb County, where 56% of voters backed Joe Biden in November, both Democratic Senate candidates maintained leads in unofficial early returns.

There was no evidence of a statistically significant number of split-ticket ballots in these early results.

By 11 p.m., election workers had tallied more than 300,000 votes with only a small number of precincts outstanding. The remaining absentee ballots are scheduled to be tallied Wednesday.

As of January 4, Cobb had issued 146,905 absentee mail ballots and accepted 121,302 that were returned. Another 114,000 people cast early in-person ballots.

For comparison, in November, about 135,000 absentee mail ballots were cast and 174,000 people cast early in-person. More than 390,000 total votes were cast in November .

10:45 p.m.

All eyes on DeKalb County

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

DeKalb County officials on Tuesday night told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that they know the county’s counting process is taking a while, but that isn’t uncommon or out of the normal pace in the elections process.

A line with nearly 60 people is stretching outside of the elections building in Decatur where dozens of electronic tablets containing the ballots from the election still need to be processed.

Erik Burton, a spokesperson for voter registration, told the AJC that the county is still working to verify the oath signatures with the inner ballot envelopes for the mail-in ballots. Several drop box and mail ballots were submitted today and they’re still processing those ballots, he said.

”We have a number of votes as far as the advance voting numbers that are being processed now and it’s a significant number,” Burton said.

The dozens of people in line, Burton said, are captains of the 191 precincts in the county. The officials have to process several boxes, and then the chips from those boxes are being processed elsewhere.

Burton said DeKalb had more people voting in person today than the number of people who voted in person in November. Even so, he stressed “this is working seamlessly and it’s working the way it’s intended to work.”

”It’s like a busy beehive really because everyone is doing their own task here,” Burton said.

10:35 p.m.

Trump weighs in on election returns

President Trump finally weighed in on Georgia’s election returns, which are increasingly favoring Democrats.

Trump may be referring to DeKalb County, the Democratic stronghold that has only reported about 40% of its votes so far. Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff are expected to net upwards of 80% of the vote there.

The president has spent the last nine weeks complaining about the November vote count. Since many Democrats opted to vote by mail, it took longer for their votes to appear in states’ election returns, which caused an early Trump lead in some battleground states to evaporate as election night wore on. Trump and his allies have alleged that widespread voter fraud is to blame, but that argument was repeatedly struck down in courts around the country.

10:00 p.m.

Gwinnett’s vote counting expected to stretch into Weds

By Arielle Kass

In Gwinnett County, vote-counting wasn’t expected to finish on Tuesday. While 95,765 absentee-by-mail ballots were tallied when the polls closed, county spokesperson Joe Sorenson said election workers stopped preparing absentee-by-mail ballots this afternoon to prepare for day-of votes that were coming in. He did not know how many absentee-by-mail ballots were outstanding, but the county sent out 124,335 absentee ballots.

Sorenson said election day votes were coming in “at a pretty good clip” and would all be uploaded tonight, but that the county had not tracked how many voters cast ballots on election day. He added that 171,056 advance in-person votes would be added to the total tonight, as well. Gwinnett has 592,342 active registered voters.

For those absentee-by-mail votes that came in today, Sorenson said, the county will still have to verify voters’ signatures, something that won’t be finished until later this week.

“We’re almost certainly not going to know what the final results are tonight,” he said

9:50 p.m.

Well-known elections analyst: Warnock defeats Loeffler

One respected political prognosticator, Dave Wasserman of the non-partisan Cook Political Report, is calling Georgia’s special election in favor of Democrat Raphael Warnock.

Other news outlets have yet to call the race, but this is still worth noting.

Republicans currently have a lead in the tabulated vote, but the remaining votes are mainly from Democratic strongholds like DeKalb County.

Wasserman said he sees Jon Ossoff as the favorite in the other Senate contest but that there’s “still a ways to go there.”

9:35 p.m.

Ossoff, Warnock forgo election night parties

By Patricia Murphy

While the Republicans waited for returns in Buckhead, neither of the Senate Democratic nominees held watch parties Tuesday night, assuming that final results would be slow to come in.

Earlier Tuesday, Warnock held events in Marietta and downtown Atlanta in a final push to get voters to the polls. “The four greatest words in a democracy are, ‘The people have spoken,’” Warnock told reporters. “And I think we’re going to hear them loud and clear today. And I look forward to that result.”

And in an Election Day interview, Ossoff told the AJC that the highlight of the cycle for him has been going to small towns in rural Georgia that rarely see Senate candidates.

”Their response to the civil rights and criminal justice initiatives that have been at the very center of my campaign has been one of overwhelming support,” he said. “And there’s just a lot of love out there.”

9:30 p.m.

Republicans grow antsy as early returns come in

By Greg Bluestein

“Grab a pillow and a sleeping bag.”

That’s what one senior Republican strategist texted as returns trickled in.

It’s still early, but Republicans are increasingly antsy about their chances. Early returns are showing U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue underperforming in important GOP strongholds in rural areas and the exurbs.

And turnout in Democratic bastions is nearing November general election levels in some left-leaning rural counties that have already reported most of their results.

Republicans are still holding out hope that Floyd and Lumpkin counties will help build margins over the Democrats, but the finger-pointing has already begun in some circles.

9:10 p.m.

Why election returns are pouring in so quickly

By Mark Niesse

Election results poured in quickly after polls closed Tuesday night, giving voters a clearer picture of the race than they had on election night in November.

One reason for the fast count was the shorter ballot, with just three races: two for U.S. Senate, and one for the Public Service Commission. Ballots in the general election had many more races, adding to the time it took to scan and load absentee ballots.

In addition, county election officials were required to process absentee ballots ahead of time. The State Election Board passed a rule in November that counties had to begin opening and scanning absentee ballots eight days before election day.

Finally, turnout was lower and election officials had more experience with Georgia’s relatively new voting system. With fewer ballots to count, election officials had less work to do.

8:55 p.m.

What a difference a night (and crowd) makes

By Greg Bluestein

A night ago, Gov. Brian Kemp was roundly booed when President Donald Trump menacingly vowed to campaign against him in 2022. Tonight, he was greeted with warm applause as he thanked the crowd for fighting for Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.

The governor wore a “Hold it for Harrison” cap honoring Harrison Deal, the young aide to Sen. Kelly Loeffler who was also his daughter’s boyfriend. Deal died in a December car accident ahead of a campaign event in Savannah, and Kemp asked the crowd to hold his memory in their hearts.

8:50 p.m.

The 30-30 rule and why it’s so important to Democrats

By Greg Bluestein and Patricia Murphy

No, it’s not a reference to the vaunted baseball standard of hitting 30 home runs and swiping 30 bases. For Georgia Democrats, it’s another important metric.

Since Republicans began their rise to power in Georgia two decades ago, Democrats have longed to reach a dual threshold: capturing 30% of the white vote and achieving a Black participation rate of 30% of the overall turnout.

In 2016, they didn’t come too close. Exit polls showed Hillary Clinton won about 21% of white voters while Black turnout hit 28%. But Biden more or less hit the 30-30 goal in November.

Exit polls suggest Biden won 30% of white voters. And an analysis by the Democratic firm TargetSmart showed Black voters made up roughly 29% of the vote. TargetSmart also found that the proportion of white voters decreased from roughly 66% in 2016 to 63% in 2020.

Re-creating that coalition won’t be easy for Georgia Democrats, particularly since African American voters are typically less likely to cast ballots in statewide runoffs. And without Trump on the ballot, Democrats may be less energized to turn out in droves.

Still, Ossoff and Warnock have reason to be optimistic. An AJC analysis of the more than 3 million ballots already cast shows that Black voters made up a higher portion of voters so far than in the presidential election.

8:35 p.m.

Why David Perdue can blame Sonny Perdue for his runoff

If Georgia were like most other states, David Perdue would have already been sworn in for his second Senate term.

The Republican incumbent edged out Jon Ossoff by about 2 percentage points in November.

In other states, which operate under a plurality voting system, the candidate with the most votes wins. But because of Georgia’s unique runoff system, which requires the winner of a general election (or primary) to receive the majority of the votes cast, Perdue was sucked into an expensive, draining overtime battle against Ossoff.

Perdue can partially blame his first cousin, former Gov. Sonny Perdue, for the rules of the road.

In the 1990s, Georgia Democrats changed the law to make it easier for candidates to avoid runoffs by lowering the winning threshold from 50% to 45%. (That came after Republican Paul Coverdell upset Democratic incumbent Wyche Fowler in the 1992 Senate race.) Republicans reversed that decision when they took over the legislature in 2005 and reinstalled the majority vote requirement. The governor who signed that into law: Sonny Perdue.

Since then, there’s been little discussion of changing the rules, especially with the GOP holding all major offices and carrying all past statewide runoffs. But we wonder if that will change should Perdue or U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler lose their reelection bids.

Read more about the fighting over Georgia’s runoff system here.

8:15 p.m.

Some of the questions we’re pondering

If you haven’t already, check out Greg Bluestein and Patricia Murphy’s post from earlier about the biggest questions of the day. Among them: Will President Donald Trump’s loyalists vote in a ‘rigged’ election? Who wins the turnout game? And will anyone actually concede?

As we wait for election returns, here are a few others we’re thinking about:

-Without President Donald Trump on ballot, what will turnout look like? A full 69% of Joe Biden voters in Georgia said they supported him in November mainly to voice their disapproval of Trump, according to exit polls. Without a presidential race at the top of the ticket, do those anti-Trump voters turn back out?

-Do we see a significant number of split-ticket voters? There is evidence that a notable number of voters in suburban Atlanta split their tickets, a dynamic that likely helped David Perdue in November. Did those voters turn out again for Perdue (and presumably Loeffler) for the runoffs?

-On a similar note, could we see many voters split their ticket between Kelly Loeffler and Jon Ossoff (or vice-versa)? The dynamic is unlikely, since Perdue/Loeffler and Ossoff/Warnock have essentially run as packaged deals for the last nine weeks. But with election results expected to be tight, even a few thousands voters could be enough to swing the races.

-What’s the impact of this weekend’s extraordinary phone call between Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which the president asked for his Georgia defeat to be overturned? Could that hurt the GOP brand in wealthy, well-educated suburbs like Johns Creek, Raffensperger’s home base?

7:50 p.m.

The scene at the GOP watch party

By Greg Bluestein

At the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, the booze was flowing and Fox News featured on big screens dotting a posh ballroom.

At least two dozen cameras were trained on an empty stage at the front of the room, and it’s uncertain whether U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler will speak. She’s ensconced in a hotel room upstairs, and U.S. Sen. David Perdue isn’t here - still self-isolating after being exposed to a staffer who contracted the coronavirus.

About 100 operatives wandered the floor, some wearing masks and others bare-faced, munching on shrimp skewers, pimento mac-and-cheese fritters and spicy chicken empanadas. Three bars sold pricey imported beers and mixed drinks. In smaller side rooms, Republican elected officials and big-time donors gathered for more exclusive gatherings far from our prying eyes.

Democrats aren’t holding an in-person gathering tonight due to COVID-19, and neither Raphael Warnock nor Jon Ossoff have announced any Zoom events since final results are expected to be slow to arrive.

7:25 p.m.

Ballot counting updates from Fulton and Cobb

By Stephen Deere and Meris Lutz

Fulton County is expected to do a preliminary release of early voting results by 8 p.m. that will be updated throughout the night, elections chief Richard Barron told county election board members at a Tuesday night meeting shortly before polls closed.

Barron said he expected voter turnout to be above 450,000. About 528,000 Fulton County residents voted in the November general election.

“For a runoff, this is pretty impressive,” Barron said.

He said that he told election board employees to expect to keep counting votes until 2 a.m. or until the Georgia Secretary of State sent them home.

Of the 450,000 ballots cast, more than 70,000 were on election day, Barron said.

Meanwhile, Cobb will allow observers in starting at 8 p.m., when tabulation begins at the county’s main elections office.

The county said it will not finish counting ballots tonight. It plans to resume counting absentee ballots tomorrow at 1 p.m.

7:00 p.m.

Most polling places close

Voting has now ended in most precincts in Georgia, capping a relatively drama-free 12 hours of in-person election day voting.

Polling places in a handful of Georgia counties will stay open late to accommodate voters who may have been held up by problems earlier in the day, our colleague Mark Niesse reports.

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said the average wait time today was 1 minute.

Polling places were being held open late in some precincts in Columbia, Tift, Cobb and elsewhere to make up for delays earlier in the day.

6:40 p.m.

Campaign operatives jittery before polls close

By Greg Bluestein

Campaign operatives were awash in a see-saw of emotions in the final hour of voting.

Texts alternated between boasts about high turnout in a Democratic stronghold and evidence of robust participation in a middle Georgia precinct. Some Republicans were jubilant, others despondent. Democrats had the same nervous energy, with some campaign hands overjoyed and others fretting about light turnout in this or that district.

The truth is, no one is quite sure yet what the election day turnout numbers will deliver - and which party stands to gain. President Donald Trump’s visit to northwest Georgia was designed to energize Republican voters, and there was anecdotal evidence of long lines and steady voting. But many of those Republicans might have been planning to vote on runoff day all along. The same could be same about precincts around metro Atlanta, where President-elect Joe Biden made a last-ditch appeal on Monday.

Hang in there, folks

1/4/21 - Dalton, GA - President Donald Trump holds a rally in Dalton, GA, to campaign for Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler on the eve of the special election which will determine control of the U.S. Senate.   (Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton /

6:10 p.m.

The counties we’re watching

Clayton, DeKalb and Rockdale: These counties represent the heart of the Democratic base. They’re home to many Black voters, whose turnout the party is heavily depending on to unseat U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Clayton, located in the congressional district once represented by the late John Lewis, helped push Joe Biden beyond Donald Trump in Georgia this November. DeKalb often provides the state’s largest trove of Democratic votes. And Rockdale, along with neighboring Henry county, had the country’s largest Democratic swing between 2016 and 2020.

Forsyth and Cherokee: What Clayton and Dekalb are for Democrats, Forsyth and Cherokee are to the GOP. Loeffler and Perdue need to rack up votes in theseexurban Atlanta counties to offset Democratic gains in the closer-in suburbs. Both counties are densely populated and deeply conservative, but Biden was able to chip away at Republican dominance there in November. Trump won Forsyth, which is at the heart of the newly-competitive 7th Congressional District, by 33 percentage points in the general election (compared to his 48-point win there four years ago). In Cherokee, Trump won by 39 points in November (he won by 50 percentage points in 2016).

Gwinnett and Cobb: These are two once deep-red counties that are now on the front lines of changing Georgia. Both have experienced exploding population growth in recent years, fueled by an influx of people of color and immigrants. Biden easily carried both counties in November. But there are signs that there were a decent number of voters, especially in Cobb, who split their votesbetween Biden and Republican Senate candidates. Will those voters turnout without Trump on the ballot?

Whitfield: Bordering Tennessee in far northwest Georgia, Whitfield is no doubt a Republican stronghold. But it’s also been hard-hit by COVID-19. Voter participation has lagged other parts of the state, which is why Trump made a beeline for Dalton, where he held a boisterous rally yesterday to drive support for Loeffler and Perdue. Was his effort enough to spike election day turnout, or did Trump supporters stay home, fearing the election was rigged?

Peach: As our colleague Greg Bluestein reported in October, this middle Georgia county is one of the state’s few bellwethers. The county’s voters have picked the eventual presidential winner in all but two elections since 1992. One of those exceptions was in November, when voters backed Trump over Biden by more than 4 percentage points. Biden won the state by less than 12,000 votes.

6:00 p.m.

Few problems reported at the polls today

By Mark Niesse

A handful of polling places will stay open late across Georgia, but for the most part lines moved quickly and there were few problems for election day voters.

Average wait times hovered around 1 minute for most of the day, according to the secretary of state’s office. Several polling places stumbled with voting equipment problems when voting began, but those issues were resolved.

Election officials reported steady turnout, but it won’t be clear how many people voted Tuesday until ballots are counted. During the presidential election, about 988,000 people voted on Nov. 3.

The most significant problems occurred in Columbia County, where voters in some precincts had to fill out paper emergency ballots because of problems with voting equipment. Keys to start up ballot scanners and poll worker access cards needed to operate voting touchscreens weren’t programmed correctly. The issues were resolved by 10 a.m.

Polling places were being held open late in Columbia, Tift and Cobb counties to make up for delays earlier in the day.

”We haven’t seen anything too over-the-top crazy, which is good,” said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager. “We want steady. We want to see that the people who want to cast their vote, that their votes are going to count.”

January 5, 2021 Atlanta: Voters lined up to cast ballots on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021 at the Park Tavern located at 500 10th St NE in Atlanta. Georgia’s long moment in the national spotlight culminated Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, when state voters cast their votes to determine which party would control the U.S. Senate. Georgia voters also voted to elect a member of the state Public Service Commission, which regulates energy and utility rates and issues. The two most expensive Senate races in history saw more than $833 million been spent by the four campaigns and outside groups supporting them, blanketing the airwaves and stuffing mailboxes across the state. Much of that money has come from organizations with no direct connection to Georgia. (John Spink /


5:15 p.m.

AP releases early survey of Georgia voters

It’s not an exit poll, but the Associated Press just released some initial data about the runoff electorate. A few top lines:

-56% of voters surveyed said they disapprove of President Trump’s handling of the 2020 election results

-60% believe Senate control is the most important issue in the runoffs

-nearly two-thirds believe the country’s been moving in the wrong direction

-only 63% are very or somewhat confident in the accuracy of the election results

5:10 p.m.

About that PSC race

It’s gotten lost in the deluge of Senate coverage, but the Public Service Commission race on the ballot will have major implications on Georgians, their pocketbooks and the state’s energy future.

The five-member commission oversees utility and energy issues and decides what Georgia Power and Atlanta Gas Light can charge consumers and businesses. That includes determining how much customers will pay toward Georgia Power’s multi-billion-dollar cost overruns on its nuclear expansion of Plant Vogtle.

Voters are picking between incumbent Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, an 82-year-old Republican who has spent years on the commission and Democrat Daniel Blackman, a 41-year-old former business consultant from Forsyth County.

As our colleague Matt Kempner detailed here, McDonald has raised about 10 times as much as Blackman. McDonald was an early backer of Georgia Power’s Vogtle expansion, which is now years behind schedule, and he’s continued to back the project while pushing the utility to increase its use of solar energy.

Blackman says the incumbent has often favored large utilities over regular people, while McDonald has warned the Democrat will back steps that will so aggressively cut carbon emissions that they will harm the state economically.

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Georgia Public Service Commission Democrat candidate Daniel Blackman makes remarks during a Georgia Democrat U.S. Senate campaign rally in Atlanta’s Peoplestown neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer /

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@

4:40 p.m.

Some reading material

If you’re just tuning in, here are a few previous AJC stories to get you started:

The key questions for Georgia’s pivotal U.S. Senate runoff races

The long, complicated history behind Georgia’s unique runoff system

Our lookback at the past nine weeks and the road ahead

What’s at stake in the Senate runoffs

And don’t miss our newsroom-wide effort focused on voting throughout metro Atlanta and the state today.

4:25 p.m.

Keeping tradition alive

Republicans are hoping to keep up a runoff winning streak that stretches back three decades.

If you count Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, who was first elected to the Public Service Commission as a Democrat but later switched to the GOP, Republicans have won all eight statewide runoffs since 1992. Two of those contests were for U.S. Senate, five for PSC, and one, in 2018, for secretary of state.

In all of those overtime contests, turnout plunged between 42 and 91 percent compared to the general election. And in three of them, the winner of the runoff was different from the candidate who lead in the general election vote (’92 Senate, ’06 PSC, ’08 PSC).

It’s pretty clear that turnout in today’s runoffs will be record-setting, but could it be enough to scramble the leaderboard from Nov. 3? (David Perdue led Jon Ossoff by roughly 2 percentage points and Republican candidates narrowly outpaced their Democratic counterparts in the special election featuring Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock.)

One more fun fact: if you count today’s race, McDonald has been a candidate in three of Georgia’s six PSC general election runoffs (his other races were a 1998 special election and in 2008). In the latter, Democrat Jim Powell narrowly led him in the general election contest by 0.6%, but McDonald came back several weeks later to win the runoff by 13 percentage points.

Georgia Public Service Commissioner Lauren "Bubba" McDonald, Jr., a Donald Trump supporter, and his wife Shelley speak to a reporter after arriving in their recreational vehicle at the Corey Center for a watch party on Monday, March 1, 2016, Atlanta. Curtis Compton /

Credit: Curtis Compton

4 p.m.

All about turnout

Both parties long ago gave up on trying to persuade undecided voters – there were so few of them to begin with– and instead channeled their money and efforts into convincing their supporters to return to the polls.

To do that, U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue have tied themselves inextricably to President Donald Trump. They’ve refused to recognize President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the Nov. 3 election, didn’t object to Trump’s inaccurate claims of widespread fraud and called on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign.

Democrats have campaigned with BidenVice President-elect Kamala Harris and a stream of Washington and Hollywood celebrities whom statewide candidates once shied away from. And they’ve spent boatloads of cash to mobilize Black voters and young people who lean Democratic but turn out less frequently in non-presidential years.

Republicans have some ground to make up. Early voting was particularly heavy in metro areas that tend to favor Democrats, and Black voters outperformed their share of the electorate. Turnout has lagged in more conservative, rural parts of the state that traditionally favor Republicans, which is part of what drew Trump to northwest Georgia yesterday for a boisterous rally in Dalton.

The prognosticators at Sabato’s Crystal Ball believe that if total turnout surpasses 4 million (the early vote was roughly 3.1 million), it will be a good sign for the GOP."

LIVE UPDATES: Perdue fights for his political life

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