In the southern state of Georgia, runoff elections for two seats in the powerful Senate will take place this Tuesday. The outcome of the votes will determine whether the Republicans can defend their majority or whether the Democrats will dominate the other House of Representatives in the future. With control of the Senate, the future President Joe Biden could rule – provided that the Democrats pull together on bills or appointments of government officials.
In the first vote on November 3rd, none of the candidates had the necessary absolute majority (unlike in the rest of the country, a Senate candidate in the state has to achieve an absolute majority to win – more than 50 percent of the votes). Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock challenge Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler.
A single victory is enough for the Republicans, who currently have 52 senators, to maintain a narrow majority in the Senate. The democratic candidates, however, would both have to prevail so that there is a stalemate with 50 to 50 votes in the chamber. A stalemate could then be resolved ex officio by the future Vice President Kamala Harris in favor of the Democrats.
The polling stations should close at 7 p.m. (local time / Wednesday morning at 1 a.m. CET). It was initially unclear when there would be reliable results. This is also due to the corona pandemic, because of which hundreds of thousands of citizens have made use of postal votes. According to statistics from the Elections Project, around three million of the 7.2 million registered voters in Georgia cast their ballot papers by letter or personally at the polling station before the actual election day.
The count could take longer
In November’s presidential election, it initially took three days to announce that Biden had done better than Trump in the state. His lead was less than 12,000 votes, with a turnout of around five million voters. There could be a similar delay in the runoff elections for the Senate seats, said Walter Jones, a spokesman for election officer Brad Raffensperger. The election workers are only allowed to start counting after the voting stations have closed.
Almost a million postal voting documents are already available, as can be seen from official data. In addition, there are more than two million votes from early voters who took the opportunity to vote in person in polling stations before the actual election date.
The three million votes that have already been cast should be evaluated relatively quickly on election night, as preliminary checks such as the comparison of signatures on postal ballot papers could already be carried out. The counting of the postal voting documents, which only arrive during the course of election day, could prove to be tedious. Envelopes have to be opened, the signatures checked, and finally the ballot papers have to be loaded into the counting machines. In addition, there are expected to be hundreds of thousands of votes from voters who will vote in person on election day in the polling stations.
The “red mirage” and the “blue shift”
As in the presidential election, it is possible that mostly Democratic supporters cast their votes by postal vote. A similar phenomenon as in November could therefore occur. At that time Trump was initially in the lead, but the more postal ballot papers were evaluated, the more the result turned in favor of Biden. Electoral researchers refer to the party colors – red for the Republicans and blue for the Democrats – of a “red mirage”, followed by a “blue shift”.
The result of the presidential election in Georgia was checked twice after the fact because of the tight outcome: first by hand and then again using computer scanners. Biden’s victory in the state was not finally confirmed until two weeks after the actual election.
There are also scenarios for a recount in the Senate runoff elections. For example, a losing candidate in Georgia may force a recount if his rival’s lead is 0.5 percent or less of the vote. A review can also be requested if an error is suspected in the collection of results. But election officers from individual districts can also order recounts at the local level before the results are officially confirmed.
On Monday, the Democrat Biden had strongly promoted Ossoff and Warnock in Georgia’s capital, Atlanta, who were slightly ahead in polls. “Tomorrow may be a new day for Atlanta, Georgia and America,” said the president-elect. Regarding the two Democratic candidates, he added: “You are principled, you are qualified. You are honorable, you mean what you say.”
Trump still does not give up
Trump, on the other hand, called on an election campaign appearance in Dalton, north of Atlanta, to vote for Republicans Perdue and Loeffler. “That could be the most important vote you will cast for the rest of your life,” he said in front of thousands of followers. Ossoff and Warnock are “extremists who would destroy everything that the patriots in Georgia hold dear.” Despite Biden’s imminent swearing-in on January 20, Trump wants to hold on to his office with all his might. “You will not conquer the White House, we will fight like the devil,” he said in Dalton.
In his address, Trump repeated his known and unproven election fraud allegations. The Republican again claimed that he clearly won the November 3rd election. In fact, according to the official results from the states, Biden has clearly won. Trump’s camp failed with dozens of lawsuits against the election results, including before the US Supreme Court in Washington.
Trump claims to have clearly won in Georgia too. The victory was stolen from him by tricks by Biden, with the help of Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Republican Interior Minister Brad Raffensperger. There is no evidence for the charge.
On Sunday published the Washington Post the recording of a phone call between Trump and Raffensperger from the previous day. You can hear him practically pushing the Georgia Home Secretary to vote fraud. Raffensperger should kindly “find” enough votes to make Trump the winner in Georgia, the President demands on the tape.