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Why Georgia is on the minds of many when it comes to runoff elections

Races on Tuesday will determine control of Senate

Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Warnock is running in a special election on Jan. 5. against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo by Jessica McGowan
Family and supporters hold runoff signs as Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock speaks during an Election Night event on November 3, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. Warnock is running in a special election on Jan. 5. against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Photo by Jessica McGowan (Getty Images)

The calendar may have switched to 2021, but that doesn’t mean all the focus in politics this month will be on the inauguration of president-elect Joe Biden.

Arguably more important is that the race for Senate control is still up in the air -- and is about to be decided Tuesday with two Senate seats in the state of Georgia up for grabs in runoff elections.

Here’s a breakdown of the two runoff elections.


What’s a runoff election?

Runoff elections are second elections held if no candidate reaches the necessary requirement of votes during the first election.

Only two states, Georgia and Louisiana, require candidates to receive a majority percentage of the vote in the general election. Every other state allows a candidate to win with the biggest plurality of the vote, even it doesn’t reach a required percentage.

Why is there a runoff election in Georgia?

In Georgia, a candidate is required to accumulate 50% of the vote. If that doesn’t happen, then the top two vote-getters square off in a runoff election.

Most recently, no candidate reached the 50% threshold, so there will be runoffs between Republican incumbent Kelly Loeffler and Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, and Republican incumbent David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff.

Historically, Georgia is a state that has tended to favor Republican candidates, although Biden did become the first Democrat to win Georgia in the presidential election since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Why are the Georgia runoff races so important?

As it stands now, Republicans hold 50 Senate seats and the Democrats have 46, but two other seats are held by Independents who are aligned with the Democrats, so essentially, it’s a 50-48 edge for Republicans.

If Warnock and Ossoff both win, the total will be an even split at 50 seats apiece, but incoming Vice President Kamala Harris will have power to cast any tie-breaking vote, should there ever be a vote strictly along party lines.

That would mean, essentially, a majority for the Democrats.

Republicans need just one of either Loeffler or Perdue to prevail, so they can maintain their majority.

Having control of the Senate is critical for judicial appointments and policy measures Biden will try to push through.

It’s no wonder there has been a lot of national focus and campaigning going on in Georgia over the holidays, and on Tuesday, it all come to a dramatic conclusion that will shape American politics for at least the next two years.


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