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The Latest: Ossoff-Perdue Senate race is too early to call

January 5, 2021 GMT
A voter casts their ballot in Georgia's Senate runoff election on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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A voter casts their ballot in Georgia's Senate runoff election on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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A voter casts their ballot in Georgia's Senate runoff election on Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

The Latest on the Senate runoffs in Georgia (all times local):

2:25 a.m.

The race for U.S. Senate in Georgia between incumbent GOP Sen. David Perdue and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff is too early to call.

As of 2:15 a.m. Wednesday, Ossoff had a lead of 9,527 votes out of nearly 4.4 million counted, or a margin of less than 0.2 percentage points.

There were still some mail ballots and in-person early votes left to be counted statewide, the majority of which are in Democratic-leaning counties.

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Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.

The Perdue-Ossoff race was one of two runoff elections that Georgia held Tuesday. In the other election, Democrat Raphael Warnock unseated Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler.

The races will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Democrats must win both seats to take power, while Republicans only need one to keep Mitch McConnell as majority leader.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE GEORGIA SENATE ELECTIONS

Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections Tuesday will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler lost to Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue was challenged by Democrat Jon Ossoff. Democrats must win both seats to take control of the Senate.

Read more:

— A clash of two closely matched coalitions

— Georgia proves its status as a two-party battleground

— A tense night for news organizations

— The Republican Party faces a defining moment

— Trump-appointed US attorney resigns in Georgia

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS GOING ON:

2 a.m.

Georgia Democrat Raphael Warnock has won his Senate runoff election.

Warnock, who served as pastor for the same Atlanta church where slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. grew up and preached, becomes the first Black senator elected in Georgia.

The Tuesday victory gives Democrats a chance to seize control of the Senate for the opening of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidency. Democrats need to win both of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections to claim the Senate majority. The contest between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican David Perdue remains too early to call.

Warnock defeated Republican incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a former businesswoman who was appointed to the Senate less than a year ago and had the strong support of outgoing President Donald Trump.

The Republican president on the eve of the election called on Georgia Republicans to swarm to the polls for the Republican Senate candidates, even as he warned without evidence of the prospect of widespread voter fraud.

Biden held his own rally Monday to urge his coalition to turn out for the Democratic candidates.

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12:55 a.m.

Democratic Senate candidate Raphael Warnock has given what amounts to a victory speech, saying he was honored by the faith that voters had shown in him and promising to work for all Georgians.

The Georgia runoff was too early to call on Wednesday. But Warnock, appearing on video after midnight, expressed optimism, saying he had “proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible.”

Warnock was challenging Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who acknowledged earlier Wednesday that “we’ve got some work to do here” in the race. It was one of two Georgia runoff elections that would determine control of the U.S. Senate. The other featured Democrat Jon Ossoff going up against Republican David Perdue.

Warnock spoke in front of a bookshelf with a sign that said “Thank you Georgia” and in his speech shared parts of his biography, including his childhood in public housing. He said, “May my story be an inspiration to some young person who is trying to grasp and grab hold of the American dream.

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12:05 a.m. Wednesday

The Republican election night party in Atlanta is beginning to empty, with those remaining increasingly concerned that one or both GOP Georgia Senate candidates could lose.

That would give Georgia a Democratic senator for the first time since 2005, when Zell Miller retired from his seat.

John Burke, a spokesperson for Republican David Perdue, says, “This is going to be close.” He says, “We’ll see how the last few votes go.”

Perdue is challenging Democrat Jon Ossoff in Tuesday night’s runoff elections, while Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is going up against Democrat Raphael Warnock. The races were too early to call by Wednesday morning.

The races will determine which party takes control of the Senate. Democrats must win both races to take Senate control. Republicans only need to win one.

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10:10 p.m. Tuesday

A top Georgia elections official says the largest share of outstanding votes looks to be ballots cast early in DeKalb County, a Democratic stronghold.

Gabriel Sterling also said Tuesday night that fewer than half of Georgia’s 159 counties had finished counting votes.

Sterling said as of about 9:30 p.m., 64 counties had finished counting absentee ballots, early in-person ballots and Election Day ballots. Most of them were smaller counties.

He says, “It’s going to be a long night for all the campaigns here.”

All eyes were on Georgia on Tuesday night for two runoff elections that will determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler was taking on Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue was going up against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Democrats must win both races to take Senate control. Republicans only need to win one.

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9:15 p.m.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has appeared at a Republican election event, telling the crowd that “we’re the red wall that is trying to stop socialism in this great state.”

Kemp has received withering criticism from President Donald Trump after Trump lost Georgia in the November election. Nevertheless, he showed up at a party for Republican Senate candidates Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue on Tuesday night.

Part of Kemp’s 10-minute speech was devoted to memorializing Harrison Deal, a Loeffler campaign worker who died in a car wreck near Savannah in early December while on the way to a campaign event.

Kemp’s daughter Lucy had dated Deal and the 20-year-old college student was close to the governor and his family.

Kemp wore a red “Hold it for Harrison” cap on stage while accompanied by his wife and three daughters. Kemp saluted Deal as his family wiped away tears. He said, “I just want to thank you, how hard you’ve been working, to hold it for Harrison.”

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9:10 p.m.

The elections director for Georgia’s most populous county says a bomb threat targeting an Election Day polling place in Georgia’s most populous county was investigated last week by the FBI.

Fulton County elections director Rick Barron said Tuesday during a media briefing that “the person said that the Nashville bombing was a practice run for what we would see today at one of our polling places.”

No arrest was made, and there was no mention that the man had any link to the Nashville bomber, who detonated an RV on Christmas morning, killing himself, injuring three other people and damaging dozens of buildings.

The Fulton County threat, received Dec. 30, was reported to the FBI. Barron says agents visited the Tennessee home of the man who made the threat and searched it but did not make any arrests.

Barron says several members of his staff have received death threats and “innumerable racial slurs” have been directed at his staff, by phone and on social media.

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9 p.m.

The two Senate runoff elections in Georgia are too early to call.

Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff had a small lead in votes counted as of 9 p.m. Tuesday, but much of that vote came from ballots cast before Election Day, which generally favor Democratic candidates.

That left room for Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue to catch up as more votes cast on Election Day, which tend to favor the GOP, were added to the count.

The two races will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Loeffler is challenging Warnock, while Perdue is going up against Ossoff.

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8:50 p.m.

More people voted in Georgia’s most populous county during Tuesday’s runoff election than on Election Day during the general election in November.

Fulton County elections director Rick Barron gave reporters a rough estimate of more than 70,000 votes cast in person on Tuesday, versus about 60,000 in-person votes on Nov. 3. Fulton County includes most of Atlanta and is heavily Democratic.

Barron noted that there were fewer absentee ballots cast than during the general election and that the early in-person voting period was four days shorter, both of which he said may have contributed to the higher Election Day turnout.

Spokesperson Summer Dunham says neighboring DeKalb County, also a Democratic stronghold, also saw more in-person voters on Tuesday than on Nov. 3.

Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler is going up against Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue is challenging Democrat Jon Ossoff. Democrats must win both seats to take control of the Senate.

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8:25 p.m.

Hundreds of supporters of Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler have gathered at a high-rise hotel in Atlanta’s Buckhead district.

They snacked on miniature empanadas and antipasto skewers as they watched results come in Tuesday night.

Everyone was forced to put on a mask and submit to a temperature check as they entered, but some discarded their masks inside, especially as people ate and drank from a cash bar.

Perdue remains in quarantine after he was exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, but Loeffler is expected to address the crowd later in the evening.

John Burke, a spokesperson for Perdue, says he’s “cautiously optimistic” as early returns come in.

Loeffler is challenging Democrat Raphael Warnock on Tuesday’s elections, while Perdue is challenging Democrat Jon Ossoff. Democrats must win both seats to take control of the U.S. Senate.

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8 p.m.

Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff stopped by a polling location in Atlanta just before polls closed to encourage voters to remain in line to cast a ballot.

Polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday, but voters in line by that time are still able to vote.

Ossoff faces Republican David Perdue in Tuesday’s night election that will determine control of the U.S. Senate along with a race between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Kelly Loeffler.

Ossoff’s spokesperson says the candidate is watching results Tuesday night with his core team.

Perdue is under quarantine after being exposed to a campaign worker infected with the coronavirus.

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7:55 p.m.

A Georgia election official says the state Republican Party initially failed to properly credential its poll watchers on time in the state’s most populous county, but the problem was sorted out in time for Election Day.

Deputy Secretary of State Jordan Fuchs said Tuesday that the party reached out to the secretary of state’s office several days before the election for help ensuring that its poll workers would be able to monitor Election Day voting in Fulton County.

Fuchs says GOP officials had found a provision of Georgia law that supported their poll watchers being there despite failing to meet the deadline for credentialing, and the secretary of state’s office helped sort things out.

Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections on Tuesday will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. Republican Kelly Loeffler is going up against Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue is challenging Democrat Jon Ossoff. Democrats must win both seats to take control of the Senate.

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7 p.m.

Most polls have closed in Georgia for voting in the two runoff elections that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate.

By law, voters who were in line when the polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday will still be allowed to vote.

Experts say the two Senate races could be very close and have warned that the results may not be known for days since counties have to count large numbers of mail-in ballots. During November’s presidential race, President-elect Joe Biden did not take the lead over President Donald Trump in Georgia until days after the polls closed.

Absentee ballots must be received by the close of polls to be counted. Military and overseas ballots postmarked by Tuesday and received by Friday will be counted, and absentee voters also have until Friday to fix any problems so their votes can be part of the final tally.

Several counties in Georgia have polling locations that will stay open late because of a judge’s order.

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6:50 p.m.

Several counties in Georgia have polling locations that will stay open late because of a judge’s order.

The state is holding two Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, with Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler facing Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue going up against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Gabriel Sterling, a top official with the Georgia secretary of state’s office, says one polling site in Tift County will stay open until 7:40 p.m., 40 minutes past the scheduled statewide closing time of 7 p.m.

He says a location in Chatham County will stay open until 7:33 p.m. and a second location will stay open until 7:35 p.m.

Polling locations in Columbia and Gwinnett counties have been ordered to stay open a few minutes late as well. A handful of other counties have requested, but not yet received, a judicial order for keeping polling locations open late.

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6:10 p.m.

A new poll shows 6 in 10 voters in Georgia say Senate party control was the single most important factor in their vote for senator.

That’s according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in Georgia.

Tuesday’s two runoff elections in the state will decide the balance of the Senate. Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is facing Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue is going up against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

In the November general election, AP VoteCast showed 53% of voters in Georgia considered party control the top factor in their vote.

Democrats must win both seats to take control of the Senate, while Republicans just need to win one of the two seats.

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6:05 p.m.

President Donald Trump’s unfounded claims about the 2020 election have resonated with Republican voters in Georgia: About 7 in 10 agree with his false assertion that Joe Biden is not the legitimately elected president.

That’s according to AP VoteCast, a survey of more than 3,600 voters in the runoff elections. The survey was conducted for Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections on Tuesday, with Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler facing Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue going up against Democrat Jon Ossoff.

According to the survey, Republican voters in Georgia overwhelmingly lack confidence that the 2020 vote count was accurate. The president’s repeated allegations of widespread voter fraud have been rebuffed in court.

Just 13% are very confident, compared with 84% of Democratic voters.

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5:50 p.m.

Georgia Public Broadcasting says its reporters have been denied access to the Georgia GOP’s election night watch party.

Managers for the nonprofit television and radio network expressed their disappointment in the Georgia Republican Party’s decision Tuesday evening, calling it “disturbing and against the spirit of the First Amendment.”

Georgia Public Broadcasting said in a statement: “When you deny GPB access to such a historic event, you also deny every Georgian living in the state’s 159 counties.”

Josephine Bennett, its director of regional news and partnerships, told The Associated Press that she did not know why its reporters were not being allowed to cover the watch party for the Georgia runoffs. The event is being held at a hotel in Atlanta’s upscale Buckhead neighborhood.

Representatives with the state Republican Party did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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4:35 p.m.

President-elect Joe Biden is striking a populist tone in the final hours of two pivotal Senate special elections in Georgia, saying that if Democrats win both, Congress will approve $2,000 stimulus checks for Americans that can help stabilize the pandemic-wracked economy.

Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is being challenged Tuesday by Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue is facing Democrat Jon Ossoff.

Biden was the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia since 1992. His party must win both Georgia seats to take control of the Senate. which is crucial to being able to advance his legislative agenda.

During an interview Tuesday with V103 in Atlanta, the president-elect said, “The thing that’s going to come before the Senate again is whether or not we keep the commitment and provide the money that the House of Representatives has made of $2,000 cash payments to families.”

The Democrat-controlled House previously approved a stimulus package that didn’t clear the Senate.

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4:15 p.m.

A judge has ordered a suburban Atlanta precinct to keep its polls open 10 minutes late because of an earlier delay.

Cobb County election officials say a precinct in Powder Springs was slow to get its voting machines running Tuesday morning. That prompted a judge to order the precinct at the George E. Ford Center to not close its polls until 7:10 p.m.

Powder Springs is a majority-Black city located about 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of downtown Atlanta.

Polls close across the rest of the state at 7 p.m., but anyone who is waiting in line at that time will still be allowed to vote.

Georgians are voting on two Senate runoff elections that will determine control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans will retain control by winning just one of the two seats, while Democrats must win both.

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3:30 p.m.

Georgia election officials say voting is going smoothly across the state, despite claims from President Donald Trump that some machines are not working in Republican areas.

“Reports are coming out of the 12th Congressional District of Georgia that Dominion Machines are not working in certain Republican Strongholds for over an hour,” Trump tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “Ballots are being left in lock boxes, hopefully they count them.”

Gabriel Sterling, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, responded to Trump’s tweet by saying that officials had already told the public about the problem in Columbia County and fixed the issue “hours ago.”

“The votes of everyone will be protected and counted,” Sterling tweeted. “Sorry you received old intel Mr. President.”

In a news release, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the incident in Columbia County was the only reported issue in the state. Columbia County is outside Augusta.

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2:15 p.m.

Sen. Kelly Loeffler is urging Republican voters to turn out in Georgia’s runoff elections to ensure the GOP holds the Senate as a “firewall” against President-elect Joe Biden and congressional Democrats.

Loeffler told reporters while campaigning Tuesday in the Atlanta suburb of Sandy Springs that “the future of the country is on the ballot.”

Tuesday’s election pits her against Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff. The outcome will determine which party controls the Senate.

Meanwhile, Warnock is criticizing Loeffler for saying she will join a number of Senate Republicans on Wednesday in challenging Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory.

Warnock told supporters in suburban Marietta that Loeffler is “trying to take your voice” by helping President Donald Trump attempt to overturn his election defeat.

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1:45 p.m.

Voters in Georgia did not appear to be encountering any major problems at the polls as of midday Tuesday.

Voting rights groups credited the large number of voters who opted to vote absentee or at an early voting location.

Georgia is holding runoff elections for both of its U.S. Senate seats. The outcome will determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the Senate.

“On balance, the scope and scale of problems that voters are experiencing are not overwhelming and that, in large part, is a reflection of the fact that many eligible voters indeed had their voice heard prior to today’s runoff election,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which runs the nonpartisan Election Protection hotline.

Clarke said the bulk of calls coming in prior to Tuesday concerned delays in voters receiving their absentee ballots in the mail.