Georgia is going to the polls for a second-round vote that will decide whether President-elect Joe Biden’s Democrats control the Senate.
The Democratic Party needs to win both seats in the state’s runoffs to gain full control of Congress – and with it the power to push forward his agenda.
The Republican Party of outgoing President Donald Trump needs only to win one in order to retain the Senate.
Joe Biden said Georgians could shape the US for years to come.
Meanwhile, President Trump told voters it was their “last chance to save the America” they loved.
Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue currently hold Georgia’s two Senate seats.
Kelly Loeffler is taking on Reverend Raphael Warnock and David Perdue is battling Jon Ossoff.
None of the candidates reached the 50% needed to win outright in the elections in November, forcing Tuesday’s runoffs under Georgia’s election rules. Voting began at 07:00.
The vote will decide the balance of power in the Senate.
The Republicans currently hold 52 of the 100 seats. If both Democrats win on December 5, the Senate will be evenly split, allowing incoming Democratic VP Kamala Harris the tie-breaking vote.
This would be crucial for pushing through Joe Biden’s agenda, including on key issues such as healthcare and environmental regulations – policy areas with strong Republican opposition.
The Senate also has the power to approve or reject Joe Biden’s nominees for cabinet and judicial posts.
If Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win, it would bring the White House, Senate and the House of Representatives under Democratic control for the first time since President Barack Obama’s election in 2008.
Voting should last about 12 hours, ending at 19:00 local time, although all those still in line to vote at that time will be allowed to do so.
Democrats are hoping for a large turnout and have been buoyed by the fact that more than three million Georgians have already cast their ballots – nearly 40% of the state’s registered voters. Early voting was a key benefit for Joe Biden in the presidential election.
The Democrats will be looking to turn out supporters in major urban areas, particularly the suburbs of Atlanta. The issue of long lines of voters could be more of a problem for them.
For the Republicans, getting out voters on the day is even more crucial, and they will be looking to the stronghold of north Georgia, as well as rural areas and smaller towns.
Generally, results come in quickly but if these races are close, it could take days.
David Perdue nearly won first time out against Jon Ossoff in November, falling just short of the needed majority with 49.7%. The other seat had more candidates, with Democrat Raphael Warnock recording 32.9% to Kelly Loeffler’s 25.9%.
A Democrat has not won a Senate race in Georgia in 20 years but the party will be boosted by Joe Biden’s presidential election win over Donald Trump there. Joe Biden’s margin of victory was about 12,000 votes among five million cast.
Georgia’s black community is more than double America’s national proportion, making up a third of the population.
Across America, nine in 10 black voters supported Joe Biden in the presidential election, according to a survey of more than 110,000 voters for the Associated Press.