ATLANTA â€” Polls will close soon in Tuesdayâ€™s critical runoff elections in Georgia, where voters are deciding who will fill two Senate seats that will determine control of the chamber and potentially the fate of Joe Bidenâ€™s incoming presidency.
Democrats headed into Tuesday with a lead in early vote, but that could evaporate with high turnout from Republicans on Election Day, who prefer to cast their ballots in-person.
In an unusual arrangement, the state is considering runoffs in two Senate seats. Both sides expect the elections to be close and say they both could go either way.
It may take until early Wednesday, or longer, for winners to be determined, especially if the races are especially tight. Officials are prohibited from counting ballots until after polls close at 7 p.m. ET. Ballots can be prepped ahead of time, however, which will help speed the tabulation, and significant results are expected to be released Tuesday night.
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The twin runoff elections, between Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock and Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue, have shattered spending records with the campaigns and allied super PACs inundating voters with more than half a billion dollars worth of advertising in the two months since the November general election.
To gain control, Democrats need to win both seats, which would then split the chamber 50-50 and let Vice President-elect Kamala Harris cast the tie-breaking vote. Republicans need to win just one seat to keep the Senate and a major check on Biden.
Officials have reported short lines and no major problems throughout Election Day after more than 3 million Georgians took advantage of early voting.
President Donald Trump, who rallied for the GOP ticket in a conservative corner of the state Monday night, and his attempts to overturn his loss in the November election have overshadowed the runoffs. Some Republicans worry his attacks on Georgia election officials will depress GOP turnout.
Three quarters of Georgia Republicans think the 2020 presidential election was unfair, while 93 percent of Democrats say it was fair, according to NBC News exit polls.
Perdue and Loeffler have tried to strike an uneasy balance, on one hand validating Trumpâ€™s baseless claims of election fraud while on the other encouraging their voters to participate in the runoffs.
â€œThis generational election will be decided by the votes cast in the next few hours â€“ no one should be sitting on the sidelines,â€ the Republicans said in a joint statement Tuesday.
Gabriel Sterling, a top Georgia election official, said the election was secure and urged voters to make their voices heard no matter what.
â€œWe hope people go out and vote and again we want to reiterate: Don’t self-suppress your vote,â€ Sterling said at a press conference.