By LIBBY CATHEY and KATE PASTOR, ABC News
(ATLANTA) — Today is Election Day in Georgia’s runoff races that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. It may take days for all the votes to be counted.
Here is how the runoffs are unfolding. All times Eastern.
Jan 06, 12:57 am
Warnock declares victory against Loeffler, pushes message of unity
Up by roughly 35,000 votes statewide, Warnock declared victory in Georgia with a virtual speech to supporters in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
“The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator,” Warnock said.
NEW: Rev. Raphael Warnock on his mother: "The other day, because this is America, the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator." https://t.co/ocEFR2PyFH pic.twitter.com/eMMs2bjBz3
— ABC News (@ABC) January 6, 2021
ABC News has not made a projection on the race, but if Warnock wins, the native-born son, who delivers sermons from the pulpit that once belonged to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., will become the first Black senator from Georgia.
“So I come before you tonight as a man who knows that the improbable journey that led me to this place in the historic moment in America could only happen here,” Warnock continued. “May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream.”
Taking a page from President-elect Joe Biden’s playbook, Warnock went on to say he’d be a senator for those who didn’t vote for him as much as for those who did support him.
“To everyone out there struggling today, whether you voted for me or not, know this, I hear you, I see you. And every day I’m in the United States Senate, I will fight for you,” he said.
Jan 06, 12:42 am
Loeffler insists she has a path to victory
While trailing her opponent by roughly 35,000 votes, Loeffler delivered remarks in the early hours of Wednesday morning projecting confidence in her race and insisting she still had a path to victory.
“This is a game of inches. We’re going to win this election,” Loeffler told a crowd of supporters in Buckhead.
“I’m not going to stop working. In the morning, in fact, I’m going to be heading to Washington, D.C., to keep fighting. We’re going to keep fighting for this president,” Loeffler said, teasing the counting of the Electoral College vote in Congress on Wednesday, which nearly a dozen GOP senators plan to object to.
Her opponent, Warnock, began speaking moments after she finished. Warnock and Ossoff did not hold large watch parties due to COVID-19 concerns.
Jan 06, 12:17 am
DeKalb County returns boost Dems
While Loeffler and Perdue have carried the lead in the Senate races for most of the night, with the bulk of votes in DeKalb County coming in, Warnock is leading Loeffler statewide, and Ossoff is close behind Perdue.
In DeKalb County, a Democratic stronghold where a massive amount of votes came in, Ossoff currently leads 82.5% to Perdue’s 17.5%. Warnock leads 83.2% to Loeffler’s 16.8%.
“Now you may be asking why is Warnock not doing much better than Ossoff?” said ABC News Chief National Affairs Correspondent Tom Llamas. “If you essentially come out and you look at all the counties that surround Atlanta, Warnock is over-performing Ossoff by about 2,000 votes so far in each of those counties.”
According to the secretary of state’s website hosting the unofficial election results, there were at least 1,231,662 votes cast on Tuesday that have been counted so far — a high turnout for runoff elections.
-ABC News’ Meg Cunningham, Kendall Karson and Quinn Scanlan
Jan 05, 11:34 pm
Stacey Abrams tweets encouraging note to Dems as Warnock takes leads
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, and founder of Fair Fight, sent an encouraging tweet to supporters moments after Warnock took the lead over Loeffler in his Senate race with 95% of the expected vote reporting in.
“With new votes joining the tally, we are on a strong path. But even while we wait for more, let’s celebrate the extraordinary organizers, volunteers, canvassers & tireless groups that haven’t stopped going since Nov. Across our state, we roared. A few miles to go…but well done!” Abrams tweeted.
Gabriel Sterling, the state voting system implementation manager, said at an earlier election update that the largest portion of remaining uncounted votes was out of DeKalb County, a heavily Democratic suburban Atlanta area.
Jan 05, 10:10 pm
Election official says biggest tranche of uncounted votes from Dem county
Gabriel Sterling, the state voting system implementation manager, said in an evening election update that the largest portion of remaining uncounted votes is from DeKalb County, a heavily Democratic suburban Atlanta area.
“The biggest tranche of votes that exists out there in a single bucket right now still looks to be the advanced voting in DeKalb County,” Sterling said.
With 80% of the expected vote reporting in, GOP candidates Perdue and Loeffler are leading their races by small margins.
Sterling said from the press conference in Atlanta that he wasn’t aware of any issues that could delay the reporting but added, “It can be like seesaw for the rest of the evening.”
Sterling said 64 of the state’s 159 counties have completed reporting all votes.
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan
Jan 05, 9:28 pm
Georgia politician says Trump’s claims of fraud ‘absolutely’ depressed GOP turnout
Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican, told ABC News Live he’s worried that President Donald Trump’s baseless allegations of election fraud in the state “absolutely” might have depressed GOP turnout in the runoff races.
“Unfortunately, too many folks in our party over the last two months have been talking about misinformation, election fraud and creating a distraction,” Duncan said.
“We’ve been outworked, out-focused, but my hope is that Kelly Loeffler’s and David Purdue’s hard work over the last two months is going to get them across the finish line and help us kind of regroup as a party here in this state, and also as a country, and be able to roll back out and get the White House in 2024,” he added.
Jan 05, 9:16 pm
Biden’s agenda could hang in balance of runoff races
ABC News Chief Congressional Correspondent Mary Bruce stressed the significance of Tuesday’s runoffs, not only because they will determine control of the Senate but because they leave President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda hanging in the balance.
“It’s not just how much he can get done but also the expediency with which he might be able to get things done,” Bruce said, outlining big promises in Biden’s agenda, from health care to climate change.
Biden has noted in recent days, while stumping for Democratic candidates, that if Democrats are able to win both seats, the $2,000 stimulus checks Democrats have been pushing for could happen immediately. Also, the approval of additional aid to state and local governments and resources to distribute the coronavirus vaccine in a more timely fashion could come quickly.
“Not to say that Joe Biden’s agenda would hit a complete brick wall if Republicans continue to maintain control in the Senate because, of course, Joe Biden prides himself on having a great working and personal relationship with Republican leader Mitch McConnell, but it certainly would make Joe Biden’s agenda and his political ambitions here much, much, much easier,” Bruce said.
Bruce also noted how the expected efforts by Republicans to object to the certification of the Electoral College results on Wednesday could give the public a sense of the “uphill battle” Biden may face if the GOP does maintain control of the Senate.
Jan 05, 8:56 pm
Black voter turnout ‘very encouraging sign’ for Democrats in Georgia
The turnout of Black voters in Georgia’s runoff Senate races rose a percentage point from what it was in November, according to ABC News’ preliminary exit poll — potentially a positive signal for Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
The African American turnout is “a very encouraging sign for Democrats. It shows that they’re getting their base out,” ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said on ABC News Live.
“That’s a very encouraging sign for Democrats. It shows that they’re getting their base out,” ABC News’ @rickklein says as exit polls show that Black voters are 29 percent of the electorate in Georgia. https://t.co/AO3ahJp5B9 pic.twitter.com/Crxeam6sQm
— ABC News Live (@ABCNewsLive) January 6, 2021
Preliminary exit poll reporting shows that Black voters account for 29% of the electorate in Tuesday’s race, up from 28% in November.
The exit poll data indicates that 93% of Black voters turned out for both Ossoff and Warnock.
“[African Americans are] as reliable of a Democratic bloc as there is and so far the Democrats look like they did their job in getting them to the polls,” Klein said.
Jan 05, 8:01 pm
Early voting turnout breaks records, Tuesday turnout too early to call
More than 3 million voters in the Georgia runoff elections cast their ballots early — 1,018,381 by mail and 2,074,994 early in-person — according to Georgia Votes, already a record-setting figure for runoff elections.
The total early vote so far also includes 123,079 who did not participate in November’s general election — which is 35,000 more votes than the margin that separated Sen. David Perdue and Jon Ossoff the first time around, when the incumbent Republican edged out his challenger by just over 88,000 votes. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Raphael Warnock were competing in a jungle primary in which the large field diluted their vote shares.
The secretary of state’s office won’t have Tuesday’s in-person turnout numbers until at least 1 p.m. on Wednesday when counties are required to report how many ballots they received Tuesday in order to calculate the number of outstanding ballots. It may take days for the final results to become available depending on how close the races are.
Republicans are relying on high Election Day turnout, believing close to a million votes on Tuesday is likely their path to victory. At a rally in Dalton on Monday night, President Donald Trump signaled how many votes Republicans are eyeing: “I guess we have to get over a million votes tomorrow, right, Kelly? Over a million. All right. That’s a lot of votes, Kelly, but we’ll do it.”
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan, Kendall Karson and Meg Cunningham
Jan 05, 7:12 pm
Runoff voters nearly split on Senate control preference
The results of the runoff elections will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate — and voters are nearly split on their preference, preliminary exit poll results show.
Forty-nine percent prefer Republican Party control, while 48% prefer control by the Democrats, based on the preliminary results.
The GOP needs either seat to retain control of the Senate, while the Democrats need both to win control.
Voters also were nearly split in their vote for president in the general election, based on the preliminary results — suggesting that Democrats were holding their own in runoff turnout.
Voters in the race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler report having voted a dead-even 47%-47% Donald Trump-Joe Biden, preliminary results show. In the contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue, it’s about the same — 48%-47% Trump-Biden, based on preliminary results.
-ABC News’ Gary Langer, Christine Filer and Steven Sparks
Jan 05, 7:01 pm
Most polls close across Georgia, advocates urge voters to stay in line
Polls across the state are closing as a flurry of advocates urge those who haven’t voted and are still standing in line to stay past 7 p.m. and make sure their ballots are cast.
Georgia voters also had until 7 p.m. to return absentee ballots in drop boxes across the state.
A few polling precincts have gotten judicial extensions to be open past 7 p.m.: one in Gwinnett County, two in Columbia County, one in Tift County and two in Chatham County. There was also an accident near a polling place in Ware County that may lead to a judicial order extending poll closing time, said Gabriel Sterling, the state voting system implementation manager.
Sterling, in the most recent election update, described the day overall as “smooth voting, steady voting.”
He said the state was getting reports of longer lines forming in Houston, Cherokee, Paulding and Forsyth counties with wait times approaching an hour, but not going over.
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan
Jan 05, 6:56 pm
With final voting underway, Obama reminds Georgians to stay in line
Former President Barack Obama tweeted to Georgia voters that while state polls close at 7 p.m., they should stay in line if they’ve arrived at their polling location in time.
“You have the right to vote, no matter how long it takes,” Obama tweeted.
Georgia voters—If you’re in line before the polls close at 7 pm, stay there. You have the right to vote, no matter how long it takes. If you have questions, call the Georgia voter protection hotline at 1-888-730-5816. Let’s bring this home.
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) January 5, 2021
Some precincts in the state will be open past 7 p.m. due to court orders.
Obama joined a virtual rally for Democratic candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff earlier this month and has appeared in digital ads for both candidates. On Monday, the former president tweeted “the stakes could not be higher” in promoting the runoff elections.
Jan 05, 6:51 pm
Majority of Georgia voters think presidential election was fair
A majority of voters in Georgia’s Senate runoffs think the presidential election was fair, preliminary exit poll results show.
More than half — 56% — of voters think the presidential election in Georgia was conducted fairly, while 41% do not, according to the preliminary results.
President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump by nearly 12,000 votes in Georgia. Trump repeatedly has made unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud in Georgia, among other states.
Most voters also express at least some confidence in the current runoff elections. Seventy-three percent are very or somewhat confident that votes in the runoffs will be counted accurately, while 26% are not very or not at all confident, according to the preliminary results. This is down from a similar question in November, when 85% were very or somewhat confident that votes in their state would be counted accurately.
-ABC News’ Gary Langer, Christine Filer and Steven Sparks
Jan 05, 6:12 pm
Election official says biggest issue at polls is ‘rumors’
Gabriel Sterling, the voting system implementation manager in Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office, provided an update on the runoff elections, reporting no major issues at this point in the day.
“The biggest thing is we have to deal with is rumors,” Sterling said. “Everybody’s kind of on edge for some of these things. But in general, it’s been steady as she goes.”
Sterling said that while there are also reports circulating about turnout, it’s impossible for the state to know how many have voted so far Tuesday because the voting systems are not connected to the internet.
“So it’s anecdotal evidence that we receive,” he said. “If there’s not lines, it doesn’t mean that there’s not a high turnout. It just means they’re processing people.”
Sterling predicted Tuesday’s turnout could be as low as 600,000 or as high as 1.1 million, stressing, “We just have no way of knowing.”
The maximum number of absentee ballots outstanding, he said, is 306,855. Sterling later tweeted a correction to the maximum number of potential outstanding absentee ballots, saying the correct number is 229,357. These are due by 7 p.m. when most polls close across the state.
Sterling said the public will know about the biggest bulk of votes Tuesday night, but it’s unclear when final results will be known.
“We’re gonna start getting results tonight. We’re gonna get the biggest bulk of them, like we did last time, it depends on the margin,” he said. “If I’m a betting person, which I’m not, I would say it’s gonna be a couple of days, because I anticipate it will be a close race one way or the other.”
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan
Jan 05, 3:46 pm
Biden ‘optimistic’ about runoffs in Georgia
President-elect Joe Biden said that he feels “optimistic” about Tuesday’s pivotal runoff elections in Georgia during an interview on V103 with Kenny Burns, a local Atlanta radio host.
“I’m doing really well, feeling really optimistic about today,” Biden told Burns.
Asked what specific policies he expects to come before the Senate this year that make it so critical for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock to win, Biden cited both the need to get $2,000 payments to struggling Americans and harshly criticized the federal government’s vaccine distribution plan at length, saying Congress needs to be able to provide support to get the vaccine out to all Americans.
“Right now, for example in Georgia, you have only about 75,000 people who have gotten the vaccination, yet you got about a half a million doses of that vaccine in the state. There’s no planning. The federal government has done virtually no planning. It’s one thing to get a vaccination — to get to get the actual vial — sent to you in a frozen pack. It’s another thing to get it into a needle and the vaccination into somebody’s arm,” Biden said.
“So I’m gonna need [Congress’] help in making sure that we establish thousands of federally-run and federally-supported community vaccination centers of various sizes across the country. Located in high school gyms or NFL football stadiums,” Biden said, adding that the vaccination project has to involve multiple levels of the government including FEMA and the under his administration vaccines will be free.
“The inability of the president and the Republican leadership, and Trump in particular, preventing that from being made available to the states is just — it’s just almost criminal in my view. And people are dying,” Biden later added.
The president-elect once again hammered Georgia’s two Republican senators and candidates, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, saying they’ve forgotten who they have been elected to represent.
“Look here’s the thing that’s happening. Because of the Republican senators of Georgia, their loyalty is to Trump, not to the people of Georgia. I mean, when I got sworn into the Senate I didn’t swear allegiance to the president, whether it was a Democrat or Republican. I’m not going to have any senators swear allegiance to me. It’s to the Constitution and to the state of Georgia, that’s who you represent,” Biden said.
-ABC News’ John Verhovek, Beatrice Peterson and Molly Nagle
Jan 05, 3:37 pm
Georgia election going ‘smoothly,’ SOS says
Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is reporting that Tuesday’s election is running “smoothly,” saying in a statement that “Georgia’s election administration is hitting a new milestone for effectiveness and efficiency.”
“After wait times averaging just 2 minutes on November 3rd, Georgia’s election administration is hitting a new milestone for effectiveness and efficiency,” the statement said. “I have always said that after every election, half the people will be happy and half will be disappointed, but everyone should be confident in the reliability of the results.”
The press release from Raffensperger’s office says that as of 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, no polling locations reported wait times longer than 30 minutes, and only one precinct reported a wait time of more than 20 minutes. The release says there have been “few issues and almost nonexistent wait times.”
Trump tweeted that he had heard about an issue in the 12th Congressional District.
Without referencing the president’s tweet, the press release from the secretary of state’s office addresses this issue, stressing that “at no point did voting stop.”
“The only reported issues occurred in Columbia County, Georgia, just outside of Augusta (parts of which are in the 12th District), and were resolved by 10 am,” the statement said. “At no point did voting stop as voters continued casting ballots on emergency ballots, in accordance with the procedures set out by Georgia law.”
“In Columbia County, a small number of the keys that start up the paper-ballot scanners were programmed incorrectly,” it continues. “Additionally, a few poll worker cards were programmed incorrectly, meaning some poll workers were unable to start the touch screen voting machines used for paper-ballot voting. The correct keys and voter cards were delivered to the relevant precincts with a law enforcement escort. Issues were resolved by 10am.”
-ABC News’ Quinn Scanlan
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