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Tens of Thousands of Absentee Votes Left to Count in Georgia Senate Runoffs

Zachary Stieber

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Tens of thousands of mail ballots are still being counted in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections, an elections official said Wednesday morning.

Over 57,500 votes are still being processed by counties, including nearly 18,000 in DeKalb County, Gabriel Sterling with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office said.

The numbers Sterling gave appeared to clash in at least one place with county officials. Richard Barron, Fulton County’s elections director, said shortly before the briefing that nearly 7,500 absentee ballots were left to process. Sterling said Fulton had just 5,294 left.

State officials have asked counties to get all of the mail ballots counted by 1 p.m., but some counties will not meet the deadline, Sterling predicted.

“These folks are all tired. They’ve had a long day, and a long week, and a long month,” he said.

Thousands of provisional ballots also need to be counted—Sterling guessed that the number is south of 10,000—and about 14,000 military and overseas ballots are outstanding. The latter can be counted as long as they arrive by Friday and were postmarked by Tuesday.

The runoffs saw Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) face pastor Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Republican David Perdue face filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a Democrat.



 Republican Senate candidate David Perdue (top L) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) (bottom L) and their Georgia runoff election challengers, Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, are seen in a combination of file photographs. (Reuters)



Warnock has declared victory late Tuesday and a number of news organizations have said he won. Warnock leads by over 54,000 votes as of Wednesday morning. Loeffler has not yet conceded.

Ossoff declared victory on Wednesday morning. He is ahead by over 17,000 votes as of Wednesday morning. Perdue has not yet conceded.

Perdue had beaten Ossoff by some 88,000 votes in the 2020 general election, while Loeffler and Warnock were the top two vote-getters in a free-for-all election to finish retired Sen. Johnny Isakson’s (R-Ga.) term.

Sterling, a Republican, said officials expect both races to end up outside a margin of 0.5 percent. If a race falls within that margin, a recount would be conducted.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on the races on Wednesday.

“I congratulate Reverend Warnock on his groundbreaking win last night and I am hopeful that when the count is complete, Jon Ossoff will also be victorious. I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November, to elect two new senators, demand action, and call on our elected leaders to end the gridlock and move us forward as a nation,” he said.

The third runoff race saw Lauren McDonald Jr. and Daniel Blackman vying for a spot on the Georgia Public Service Commission. McDonald, a Republican, was ahead as of Wednesday morning by just under 69,000 votes.



 Election workers tabulate ballots at the Beauty P. Baldwin Voter Registrations and Elections Building in Lawrenceville, Ga., on Jan. 5, 2021. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)



President Donald Trump alleged a voter dump happened after at least two counties paused counting overnight. Videos of news coverage of the race appeared to show Perdue’s vote count go downwards in real-time.

“They just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night. The USA is embarrassed by fools. Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!” Trump tweeted on Wednesday.

But Sterling said officials saw no evidence of irregularities.

“We’ve seen nothing widespread, nothing that seems real in any shape or form,” he said.

Sterling said that if both Republican senators end up losing, it would be Trump’s fault, along with others who alleged election fraud occurred in the general election.

A reporter then asked him whether he has concern about blurring the line between public official and pundit with his frequent comments on politics.

“On occasion, but people ask my personal opinion,” he said. “I’m an American. I have a First Amendment right to answer some of these things.”

Election Day turnout in the race ended up at 1.3 million, over 300,000 higher than during the presidential election. With over 3 million early votes, the race also set a new runoff record in the state.

The day of voting was likely a result of Trump encouraging Republicans not to use mail or other early voting options, Sterling speculated. He claimed that Republicans turned out on Election Day because “it started dawning on them, we’re going to lose this if we don’t turn out.”

“While Republicans were busy attacking the governor and my boss, Democrats were knocking on doors,” he added.