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Georgia Senate runoff too close to call

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Georgia Senate runoff too close to call
A voter marks their ballot at a polling location at the Dunbar Neighborhood Center in Atlanta on Tuesday. Photo by Tami Chappell/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Two runoff elections in Georgia that will determine the balance of power in the Senate remained too close to call early Wednesday.

Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue and appointee Sen. Kelly Loeffler face challenges by Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and David Warnock, as none of the candidates was able to meet a 50% threshold in November's election.

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If both Ossoff and Warnock are victorious, Republicans and Democrats would hold 50 seats each in the Senate, allowing Vice President-elect Kamala Harris to break ties in votes along party lines.

Georgia election data shows Perdue with 50.02% to Ossoff's 49.98% with about 1,300 votes separating the two.

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In the other race, Warnock had 50.41% to Loeffler's 49.59%.

Nearly 99% of precincts had reported.

More than 3 million Georgians cast early votes in the election, including more than 2 million who voted in person and 928,000 by mail.

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With votes still being counted, Warnock declared victory shortly after midnight in a live stream.

"We were told that we couldn't win this election, but tonight we proved that with hope, hard work and the people by our side, anything is possible," he said. "So, Georgia, I am honored by the faith that you have shown in me and I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election."

Loeffler early Wednesday told her supporters in Atlanta that there were still lots of votes to count and that "it's worth it for this election to last into tomorrow."

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"This is a game of inches," she said. "We're going to win this election, we're going to save this country."

Most polling places in the state remained open until 7 p.m., although two polling places in Columbia County stayed open until 7:01 p.m. and 7:04 p.m. after some voters had to fill out emergency paper ballots due to programming issues on some ballot scanners. A polling place in Tift County will remained open until 7:40 p.m., but a reason wasn't immediately provided. One polling station in Ware County closed at 8 p.m.

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Gabriel Sterling, the state's voting system manager, said the average wait times to vote Tuesday were about 1 minute.

"It's been sort of calm," Sterling said. "We haven't seen anything too over-the-top crazy, which is good. We want steady. We want to see that people who want to cast their vote, that their votes are going to count."

In addition to the Senate race, Georgia has become the focus of national attention as President Donald Trump has called the presidential election that saw him lose the state to President-elect Joe Biden "rigged" and asked Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in a phone call that was recorded to "find" the votes necessary to overturn the results of the election.

The president on Tuesday reported claims of issues with voting machines in the 12th Congressional District. Sterling responded that the issues had been resolved that morning.

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

U.S. District Judge Mark Cohen on Tuesday rejected a lawsuit by Trump seeking to decertify the presidential election results in Georgia, citing unsubstantiated claims that enough out-of-state and ineligible voters had cast ballots to swing the vote for Biden.

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Trump has tied his challenges to the presidential election to the Senate race, warning Raffensperger in the call that a failure to overturn the election result would cost the Republican senators at the polls.

He has also suggested that Loeffler and Perdue may be critical for a challenge of the election results in the Senate.

A group of about a dozen Republican senators, led by Ted Cruz, R-Texas, have said they plan to object to the upcoming certification of Electoral College votes and are calling for an emergency audit of the results.

On Monday, Loeffler said she would object to the certification process on her own, separate from Cruz's coalition.

"Elections are the bedrock of our democracy and the American people deserve to be 100% confident in our election system and its outcomes," she said in a statement.

"But right now, tens of millions of Americans have real concerns about the way in which the November presidential election was conducted -- and I share their concerns."

Biden has referred to Ossoff and Warnock as "doers" who will help to implement his policy plans, and on Monday said they'd guarantee a Democratic majority that would revisit the $2,000 stimulus payments opposed by Senate Republicans.

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"That money will go out the door immediately and help people who are in real trouble," Biden said. "Millions of people in this country are out of work through no fault of their own."

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