Edit 1: Updates results, headline, adds context
Washington, Jan 5 (efe-epa).- The American state of Georgia voted Tuesday in very tight elections that will decide which party controls the Senate during the first two years in power of President-elect Joe Biden, and whether the new leader will be able to implement deep reforms.
More than three hours after the first polls closed, and with 87 percent of the vote counted, the two Republican Senate candidates led by a narrow margin in the counting of the votes, but the official count was expected to take hours to complete.
The two incumbent Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, had more than 51 percent of the ballots at this point in the vote, while their Democratic rivals – journalist Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock, respectively – hovered around 49 percent.
Preliminary results pointed to high turnout by African Americans, mostly Democrats, and a weaker-than-expected performance by Perdue and Loeffler in GOP fiefdoms across the state, giving Biden’s party cause for optimism.
Furthermore, Perdue had a wider advantage over his opponent than Loeffler had over his; as commentators predicted a possible defeat of the Democrat.
However, state officials and the media stressed that the race was too close to predict a winner, while millions of Americans waited in suspense for results as crucial for Biden as for the Republicans who will be his opposition.
Polling places began closing at 7:00 p.m. local time (00:00 GMT Wednesday), although under state law, anyone still in line to vote at that time had the right to vote.
“Stay in line, Georgia. If you’re in line at your polling place at 7pm, you can vote,” Biden wrote on his Twitter account.
Republicans only need to win one of the seats at stake in Georgia to retain control of the Senate until at least 2023, while Democrats should win the two contested seats to wrest the reins of that chamber from the Conservatives.
The day passed with few mishaps in the southern state, and there were no long lines either: The average wait time to vote was one minute, according to Georgia’s voting system manager Gabriel Sterling.
At a news conference Tuesday, Sterling warned that final results probably won’t be known for “a couple of days” due to the need to process early voting and by mail.
There are 7.6 million registered voters in Georgia, of whom about 4.8 million participated in the November elections.
In these elections, more than 3 million people voted early, for which a high turnout was expected a priori.
In the election, Warnock, a pastor at an Atlanta church where civil rights leader Martin Luther King, assassinated in 1968, preached, faces Loeffler, who is running for re-election.
In the other race, Ossoff, a former legislative official and journalist, is running for a seat in the federal Senate with Perdue, who is also running for re-election.
In both races, the polls had given Democratic candidates a slight advantage, but with a difference of less than three percentage points, within the margin of error.
In the November vote, Republicans secured 50 Senate seats and Democrats increased one to their current, for a total of 48.
If the Democratic candidates win Tuesday in Georgia, there will be a 50-seat tie that would leave the momentous decisions in the hands of the vice president-elect, Kamala Harris, who will have the tiebreaker vote in his capacity as president of the Senate. EFE-EPA