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The Georgia Senate runoff races take place Tuesday Jan. 5, two months after the election.

Both Georgia Senate runoff races are expected to be close, but Tuesday night closed out looking promising for Democrats in the battle to control the Senate. 

Democrats need to win both seats, along with the tiebreaker vote of Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to put them at a razor-thin 51-50 majority. Kelly Shaw, associate teaching professor in the political science department, said regardless of who wins America is in a hyperpolarized state.

With 97 percent of votes counted, Democrat Raphael Warnock leads over Republican Kelly Loeffler 50.41 to 49.59 percent. Republican David Perdue holds a slight lead over Democrat opponent Jon Ossoff with 50.2 to 49.98 percent.

The regular Senate election runoff advanced two frontrunners, incumbent Perdue ran for his second term in office after being elected in 2014 against opponent Ossoff. 

Shaw said counting in-person and rural votes is expected to benefit Republicans but both races are still too close to call. 

In Georgia, state law requires a winning candidate to earn 50 percent of votes. If no candidate receives a majority vote, the two front-runners battle for the seat in a runoff after the election. 

While President-elect Joe Biden won the state, the Senate races are expected to be tight, as Georgia has a long history of Republican power. Shaw said Democrats have done a better job than they historically have in Georgia, but it doesn’t mean the state has flipped.

“The lay of the land is that the Republicans will continue to have an advantage in that state but of course like everywhere else demographics are changing,” Shaw said.  

Almost $500 million has been spent on advertising between the two races, according to NPR. Shaw said when races are tight, there is a greater impact of special interest and Political Action Committees (PACs) pouring money into the race.

Shaw said considering it was a special election there was a fairly exceptional voter turnout.

“It is indicative of the polarization and mobilization that we have, and a lot of that mobilization has taken place because of the interest and both parties obviously see Georgia as an important state in terms of the Senate and how things are going to go in the next couple of years,” Shaw said.

Even though these runoffs will decide the flow of legislation for at least the next two years, they still weren’t the only election headlining on Tuesday. While campaigning for the Republican Senators, President Donald Trump continues to push baseless claims of fraudulent voting in the presidential election. 

Tuesday morning, Trump wrote on Twitter Vice President Mike Pence had the power to reject fraudulently chosen electors. Shaw said he doesn’t not expect for there to be any challenges after results are finalized but there could be recounts due to the closeness of the race.

“Challenging the process and calling for a recount is a little different,” Shaw said. “One assumes we want to make sure everyone is counted the other assumes that there has been something that has happened that is now kosher.” 

With slim margins in the House and the Senate, a Biden Presidency may face some roadblocks. Shaw said if the Senate remains in Republican control there will either have to be compromises made or there will not be much policy made during the first years of the Biden Administration.

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