A voter wearing an American flag mask casts a ballot during the November 3 general election at a polling place in Lawrenceville, Georgia. File photo by Tami Chappell/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 14 (UPI) -- Long lines formed Monday as in-person early voting for a pair of U.S. Senate runoff elections began in Georgia with control of the upper chamber hanging in the balance.
Hundreds of voters were queued early in the day at the main Cobb County polling site in Marietta, Ga., where officials said wait times of two hours were expected, WSB-TV reported.
Long lines were also observed in Gwinnett County in suburban Atlanta.
Such runoff races usually generate low voter interest, but because of the national ramifications of the races, record turnout is expected for the Jan. 5 contests pitting GOP incumbent David Perdue against Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Kelly Loeffler against Democrat Raphael Warnock.
Loeffler was appointed to fill former Sen. Johnny Isakson's seat after he resigned due to health reasons.
After no one in either of the Senate races won a majority in the Nov. 3 general election, runoff contests were triggered for both seats, with the top two candidates in each race facing off.
Control of the Senate now hinges on the outcome of the two races -- if Democrats can flip both seats, the chamber will be split 50-50 with Democratic Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking ties in her capacity as Senate President.
More than 1 million absentee ballots have already been requested for the contests, election officials say.
Among the early voters at an Atlanta recreation center was former United Nations ambassador and civil rights leader Andrew Young, who told reporters Monday was "a freedom day" when those calling for social change have a chance to cast to their votes.
"It's going to be a divided election, but hopefully in Atlanta, after the votes are cast and counted, we will live up to the will of the people and try to do what is best for all of the people," he said.
Warnock later joined him at the same polling site to cast his own ballot.