Democrats clinched their Senate majority earlier this month when they won seats in Nevada and Arizona. Still, there is one last contest in the battle for the Senate: The runoff race in Georgia between Democratic incumbent Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker.
The race will determine whether the Senate will remain evenly split with Democrats and Republicans each holding 50 Senate seats, where Vice President Kamala Harris breaks ties, or whether Democrats will have a one-seat majority in the Senate.
Here’s our breakdown of the final and most important Senate race in the country.
Why is there a runoff?
In Georgia, if neither candidate wins a majority in the general election, the two candidates who received the most votes go into a runoff election. In November, the race between Mr Warnock and Mr Walker also included Libertarian Senate candidate Chase Oliver. Mr Warnock received the highest amount of votes, earning 49.44 per cent of the vote, followed by Mr Walker, a former running back for the University of Georgia, who received 48.49 per cent of the vote. That in turn triggered a runoff.
When is the runoff race?
In November 2020, Georgia had two Senate races, one for a six-year term and a special election to complete the term of Senator Johnny Isakson, who resigned due to health complications. But in both races, no candidate received a majority of the vote even as President Joe Biden won the state. That triggered a runoff nine weeks later on 5 January 2021. In response, Georgia’s voter bill, which many civil rights advocates feared would suppress votes, shortened the span of time for a runoff from nine weeks to four weeks. As a result, the runoff happens on 6 December. But the law does not change the law that requires voters be registered 30 days before the runoff, which means that neither party will be able to register new voters for the runoff.
What are the stakes?
In 2021, Mr Ossoff and Mr Warnock’s victories gave Democrats their slim 50-50 majority, where the vice president breaks ties. That, combined with the fact that Democrats held the House of Representatives and the White House, meant Democrats had a trifecta and could pass large parts of their agenda. In turn, they passed the American Rescue Plan Act, Mr Biden’s Covid-19 relief package; a bipartisan infrastructure bill; and the Inflation Reduction Act, which tackled climate change and drug prices. Mr Warnock for his part championed reducing the price of insulin.
In November, every other Democrat in a contested Senate seat won re-election, including Senator Mark Kelly of Arizona; Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire; and Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada. In addition, Democrat John Fetterman flipped Pennsylvania’s open Senate seat, but Democratic challengers in North Carolina, Wisconsin and Ohio lost their races. This leaves Democrats with 50 Senate seats and Republicans with 49 seats.
Democrats will hold the majority regardless, but a 51-49 Senate makeup would give them advantages on the makeup of committees. In addition, they could likely confirm many more of Mr Biden’s judicial nominees.
When does early voting start?
Early voting in Georgia began on 28 November. Mr Warnock’s campaign, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Georgia Democratic Party also won a case that would allow for counties to hold early voting last Saturday. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, had previously said that early voting could not happen because Georgia law prohibits early voting on a Saturday if a holiday falls on the Thursday or Friday right before, the Associated Press reports.