The two Senate races in Georgia could end as runoff elections that could put Senate control in limbo by January.
If the dust settles in the next month and all the ballots are counted, Americans may not know which party will control the United States Senate for the next two years until January, thanks to an unusual confluence of events in Georgia.
Two Senate seats in this state are available at the same time, and if neither candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, state law will force a runoff election on Jan. 5 – two days after the rest of Congress is sworn in.
About 10 Senate races are rated competitive this year, giving the Democrats a chance to wipe out the 53-47 majority of Republicans. This could lead to a bitter post-November 3 political battle in a largely republican state with a growing democratic electorate.
Why there are two seats in the Senate in Georgia
Republican Senator David Perdue is up for re-election according to the regular six-year election cycle of the US Senate. First elected in 2014, he now faces tough competition against Democrat Jon Ossoff, an investigative journalist and media manager.
Georgia’s other Republican Senator, Kelly Loeffler, was named in 2019 to replace former Senator Johnny Isakson, who was retiring. Your seat is now up for grabs in a special election that saw 21 candidates, including Republican US Representative Doug Collins and Democrats Raphael Warnock and Matt Lieberman.
How common are runoffs in US elections?
Several US states, including Georgia, are calling for runoffs for major competitions that do not determine a clear winner.
But Georgia was one of the few states to use runoffs for parliamentary elections after a 1966 gubernatorial race failed to produce a clear winner and a Democrat-dominated legislature chose their own candidate over a Republican who won a slightly larger number of voters.
How both elections could end in runoff elections
The special election for Loeffler’s seat is an open “Jungle Primary” competition in which all candidates, regardless of their party, take part. The sheer number of candidates makes it unlikely that anyone will cross the 50 percent threshold. A recent poll found that Warnock tops the list with just 31 percent.
In the Perdue-Ossoff matchup, none of the contestants has hit the 50 percent mark in the poll since July, and recent data shows the race is within a single percentage point. The Libertarian Senate candidate Shane Hazel could also force a runoff election by getting a small percentage of the vote.
Why Drains Could Affect Senate Control
Republicans currently have a 53-seat majority in the Senate with 100 seats. Democrats are slightly preferred to take control of the Chamber in November, which would force them to secure three Republican seats if Democratic candidate Joe Biden won the White House, which could allow Vice President Kamala Harris to act as a tie breaker in the Senate.
Ten Senate seats are very competitive – eight Republicans and two Democrats. However, political analysts say the most likely outcome is a 50:50 split, increasing the possibility that Georgia could prove to be a nail biter in January.