Two U.S. Senate races almost never appear on a ballot in the same year, but that happened in Georgia’s November election. Because no candidate in those two races earned at least 50%, Georgia voters are asked to return to the polls, where both U.S. Senate races are on runoff ballots.
In the balance? Which party will control the U.S. Senate for at least the next two years.
The runoffs pit incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue against Democratic challengers Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. Republicans need one more seat for a majority in the Senate, while Democrats need a sweep on Jan. 5.
Perdue, who now lives in St. Simons Island, voted Monday with his wife, Bonnie.
“It’s very important,” Warnock told supporters after a speech to labor union canvassers on Friday. “It’s how we won in the general and it’s how we’re going to win in the runoff.”
Loeffler released a video Monday urging her supporters to vote.
“We need you to make a plan,” she said. “Find your polling place, get out and vote. Save the American dream.”=
In-person early voting began Monday in all 159 Georgia counties. (Scroll down to see the locations in Southeast Georgia.) Early voting will also be available one Saturday before election day in most counties.
Gabriel Sterling, election system implementation manager for the Georgia Secretary of State, said he expected a surge of people Monday. More than 125,000 people cast ballots in October on the first day of early in-person voting before the general election. Some Atlanta-area early voting sites in October and November saw people lined up for hours.
Few long lines were reported as the voting Monday.
More than half of the record 5 million votes in the Nov. 3 general election were cast during the two-week early voting period. Early in-person voting could be even more important in the Jan. 5 runoffs because of the short time frame for voters to request and send back ballots by mail.
No one expects turnout to be as high as the November general election but Bernard Fraga, an Emory University professor who studies voting, said overall turnout could rise as high as 4 million.
One question is how many mail-in ballots will be cast in the election. By Friday, 1.2 million mail-in ballots had been requested and 200,000 returned. In the general election, Democrat Joe Biden won 65% of the 1.3 million absentee ballots that were returned in Georgia, a record fueled by the coronavirus pandemic.
Fraga said it’s possible that mail-in ballots, if anything, will be even more favorable for Democrats in the runoff because of attacks on the integrity of mail-in voting by President Donald Trump and many Georgia Republicans.
“I don’t think Republicans are going to be voting by mail even at as high of rates as they did in November,” Fraga said.
On Election Day -- Jan. 5 -- all precincts in the state will be open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and absentee voting continues through election day, with a Jan. 1 deadline to request a ballot to be able to vote by mail, although people are urged to request and return absentee ballots as early as possible.
During early voting, people don’t go to their regular polling places for early voting. Instead, they can choose to go to their county registrar’s office or any other early voting location established by county election boards. All in-person voters must also show valid government-issued photo identification.
Southeast Georgia early voting locations
- Board of Elections, 10305 N. Main Street, Nahunta - Weekdays except for Christmas Eve and Day Dec. 14-31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Kingsland: Camden County Annex, 107 N. Gross Road - Weekdays, Dec. 14-22 and Dec. 29-30, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 19, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- St. Marys: Welcome Center, 406 Osborne Street - Dec. 14-18, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Saturday, Dec. 19, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Woodbine: County Administration Building, 200 East 4th Street - Saturday, Dec. 19, 9 a.m.-3 p.m.
- Folkston: Elections Office at County Courthouse, 1520 Third Street - Weekdays, Dec. 14-22 and Dec. 28-30, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m; Dec. 23 and 31, 8:30 a.m.-noon.
- St. George County Building, 13063 Florida Avenue, St. George - Saturday, Dec. 19, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
- Brunswick: Ballard Recreation Complex, 30 Nimitz Drive - Weekdays, Dec. 14-24 and Dec. 28-31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Brunswick: Glynn County Board of Elections, 1815 Gloucester Street - Weekdays, Dec. 14-24 and Dec. 28-31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
- St. Simons Fire Station #2, 1929 Demere Road - Weekdays, Dec. 14-24 and Dec. 28-31, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
- Courthouse Annex, 312 Nichols Street, Blackshear - Weekdays, Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 28-30, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.; Dec. 31, 8:30 a.m.-noon
- Board of Elections, 408 Tebeau Street, Waycross - Weekdays, Dec. 14-23 and Dec. 28-30, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.; Dec. 31, 7 a.m.-5 p.m.
Check your voting status and get other information on the Georgia Secretary of State’s My Voter page.