The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

When to expect results from Georgia’s Senate runoff

Polls in Georgia will start closing at 7 p.m. Eastern time Tuesday in the runoff election for Senate. (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post)

A nail-bitingly close Senate runoff in Georgia on Tuesday will help determine how much power President Biden’s Democratic allies will have in the Senate, as Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) faces Republican challenger Herschel Walker, a former football player.

Warnock edged out Walker by about 36,000 votes out of more than 3.9 million cast last month, but fell short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff under state law. (A Libertarian candidate got about 81,000 votes, or 2.1 percent.)

A spokesman in the Georgia Secretary of State’s office said in a brief interview Monday that unofficial results will begin to be posted online shortly after polls in the state start closing at 7 p.m. The speed at which those results will be posted is based on voter turnout and how quickly counties share their results with state officials.

Officials can start counting ballots sent by mail, or collected during the early voting period, once the polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday, according to Robert Sinners, a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.

End of carousel

If prior runoff elections in the state are any indication, media organizations could announce a winner within hours of the polls closing.

In January 2021, Georgia had two very competitive Senate runoff elections. At 2:01 a.m. on the day immediately after the election, the Associated Press announced Warnock had unseated Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R), securing two years in the Senate. At 4:17 p.m., the AP announced a winner in the other race: fellow Democrat Jon Ossoff had ousted Sen. David Perdue (R).

Warnock won his race by 2.1 percentage points; Ossoff won by 1.2 points.

This year’s runoff between Warnock and Walker is also expected to be close. As of Monday, more than 1.8 million people, or nearly 27 percent of active voters, had cast their ballots, according to figures from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. By last week the office said turnout “far exceeds the number of voters who cast ballots in the runoffs of 2018 and 2016.”

Live election results: Georgia Senate runoff

Typically, election experts caution against reading too much into what appears to be a “lead” for one candidate in the initial, and incomplete, voting results that emerge immediately after the polls close. Those early results may say more about the vote-counting processes across various counties than about any candidate’s electoral strength.

Georgia’s nearly 11 million residents are spread across 159 counties, the most counties of any state except for Texas, which has nearly 30 million residents.

Democrats have traditionally drawn most of their votes from the state’s densely populated urban centers, which may report their results later than the rural areas Republicans have typically relied on for votes.

Though Democrats already won a functional majority in the Senate in this year’s midterms — at least 50 seats plus a tiebreaker vote from Vice President Harris if needed — the runoff in Georgia will determine whether they secure a 51st seat.

If Warnock wins, Senate committees would be composed of more Democrats than Republicans, amplifying their advantage. If Walker wins, there will be a 50-50 split in the chamber, and committees would have to have an equal number of Democrats and Republicans.

The 2022 Midterm Elections

Georgia runoff election: Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) won re-election in the Georgia Senate runoff, defeating Republican challenger Herschel Walker and giving Democrats a 51st seat in the Senate for the 118th Congress. Get live updates here and runoff results by county.

Divided government: Republicans narrowly won back control of the House, while Democrats will keep control of the Senate, creating a split Congress.

What the results mean for 2024: A Republican Party red wave seems to be a ripple after Republicans fell short in the Senate and narrowly won control in the House. Donald Trump announced his 2024 presidential campaign shortly after the midterms. Here are the top 10 2024 presidential candidates for the Republicans and Democrats.