Democrats take control of the Senate

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Veronica Rocha and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 6:12 PM ET, Wed January 6, 2021
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7:21 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Stacey Abrams: "It's going to be a tight race"

From CNN's Maureen Chowdhury

CNN
CNN

Stacey Abrams, voting rights activist, said the steady stream of voters from both sides of the aisle signals that “it’s going to be a tight race.”

Abrams also expressed confidence in the state's election process. "I think we continue to make progress. Now, let's be clear, we have not fully eliminated voter suppression in Georgia or across the country, but we have made dramatic strides, from even June and certainly 2018," Abrams said.

When discussing the chances of Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock winning the seats, Abrams explained, "Being a battleground means you have to fight for victory."

"Republicans for 20 years took for granted their successes. We made them fight in 2018, we made them fight in 2020 and we won the battle in 2020. We're going to win this battle in 2021 whether it's by winning these two elections or by forcing Republicans to take seriously the need of Democrats, the needs of independents, the needs of the people. We are going to be able to compel Republicans to actually have to talk about the issues and debate the issues as opposed to having a fait accompli for their ideas," she added.

Watch the interview:

6:08 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Democrats warning internally to brace for GOP lead at outset

From CNN's Kyung Lah

Democrats are messaging internally to brace for a huge Republican lead when the first returns come in, a senior aide for Jon Ossoff’s campaign tells CNN.

Democrats anticipate that what’s going to be reported first are smaller, conservative counties, counting in-person voting. They are expecting a majority of today’s vote could go GOP.

“We will be wildly down tonight,” says the senior aide. But the aide says the campaigns are urging to not read too much into tonight until the four big counties come in.

6:54 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Polls are closing in Georgia in one hour. Here's what is at stake in tonight's election.

From CNN's Zach Wolf and Kate Sullivan

Polls close across Georgia at 7 p.m. ET, and so much rests on the outcomes of today's runoff elections. 

The races will determine whether Republicans keep control of the Senate, which will greatly affect the kind of legislation President-elect Joe Biden would be able to pass through the chamber once he takes office later this month.

Here are some of the key areas that the results will impact: 

  • The economy. The size and scope of recovery efforts will be shaped by who controls the Senate. Democratic wins would likely mean more from the government, writes CNN's Matt Egan. "A sweep by Democrats would open the door to more powerful fiscal stimulus that the shaky economy may very well need. But it would also raise the risk of corporate tax hikes that investors despise."
  • Biden's ability to govern. His ability to get the people he wants in his Cabinet and in other key roles is entirely up to the Senate. One reason we don't yet know his pick to be attorney general has got to be that Biden doesn't know if it's a Republican or Democratic majority who will be voting to confirm.
  • Congressional oversight and Biden. A Democratic majority will mean much less combative oversight, at least to start the Biden administration. It would also make Republican efforts to attack him over his son's previous business dealings — Trump's top offensive in 2020 — more difficult.

5:51 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Biden team on Georgia election: "We have a good shot"

From CNN's Arlette Saenz

President-elect Joe Biden’s team is optimistic heading into tonight’s Senate runoff elections in Georgia, with a source close to the transition saying “We have a good shot.”

The source acknowledged Democratic victories in the state would make it easier for the President-elect to move his agenda through Congress but also argued he’s looking to accomplish some of his goals through bipartisan pushes.

“Certainly winning would ease the path for a lot of what the President-elect wants to get done,” the source said. “But we intend to achieve bipartisan success” regardless of the outcome in the runoffs.

The President-elect in recent days has also framed this race as one that will impact Covid-19 relief and vaccinations, arguing that Democratic wins would help get $2,000 stimulus checks to American families faster and provide necessary funding to local and state governments for vaccinations. 

Biden and his team have devoted significant time and resources to the runoffs in the state as they hope to boost the Democratic candidates.

Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have each campaigned in the state twice, including trips in the last 48 hours of the race. They have poured $18 million into the runoffs and deployed staffers to work with the teams on the ground.

5:51 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Two Georgia counties have already surpassed in-person voting totals for Election Day

From CNN's Nick Valencia and Holmes Lybrand

At least two counties in Georgia have surpassed in-person Election Day voting totals from November 2020 today. 

With roughly 90 minutes left to go until polls are slated to close, DeKalb County has surpassed in-person, Election Day voting from November today, a county spokesperson told CNN. The county, which is one of the most populous in the state, saw 47,561 in-person Election Day votes in the general election, and as of roughly 5:20 p.m., the county had seen 51,000 in-person votes today. 

Forsyth County, located further north outside of Atlanta, has also surpassed its 2020 Election Day in-person voting total, Voter Registrations and Elections Department Director Mandi Smith told CNN. In November, 13,630 votes were cast on Election Day. 

6:54 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Polls are closing in Georgia at 7 p.m. ET. Here's why it is not clear when we will know the results.

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Voters enter a polling station at the Zion Baptist Church on Tuesday, January 5, in Marietta, Georgia.
Voters enter a polling station at the Zion Baptist Church on Tuesday, January 5, in Marietta, Georgia. Sandy Huffaker/AFP/Getty Images

Polls for Georgia's crucial runoff Senate elections are set to close in the state at 7 p.m. ET. The twin US Senate runoffs in Georgia mean everything in American government for the next two years.

President-elect Joe Biden will either have a Republican-led Senate working to block him or a (barely) Democratic-controlled Senate trying to help him out. And the races will determine whether Republicans have the advantage or there's a 50-50 split, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris giving Democrats the edge.

But it's not clear how quickly we'll know the results. CNN took until Nov. 13 to project Biden's victory in Georgia's presidential contest, 10 days after Election Day.

There's plenty of reason to expect a repeat. Early voting, the counting of which helped drag out the presidential results, is nearly keeping track in these special runoffs. In Fulton County, the state's most populous, the elections administrator said Monday that the early vote totals were larger for January than for November.

Republicans in the state have expressed concern that there may be a Democratic edge in the early vote totals. Which means that Republicans may need a strong showing on Election Day again.

That's where President Trump's feud with Republican state officials over his own loss in the state could mean the difference in the GOP having a majority going forward.

5:23 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Democratic candidates are using "every last minute in these final hours" to get their message out

From CNN's Kyung Lah

Getty Images
Getty Images

Democratic candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have both been actively working to get their messages out as voters head to the polls in Georgia. Polls are set to close in the state at 7 p.m. ET.

Here's what campaign aides said about the candidate's activities:

From a Warnock senior campaign aide:

"Rev. Warnock is not only doing the previously press-advised in-person GOTV events, he is also burning up the phone lines calling into Black radio across the state. It’s being characterized to CNN as 'marathon call-ins' to radio during morning and evening drive hours. He’s called into Black talk radio, gospel radio in South Georgia, Rickey Smiley’s syndicated show (because of Georgia ratings) and local TV stations. Markets he’s focused his call-ins: Atlanta, Albany, Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Augusta. He’s focusing on places where he can grab the last-minute eyes and ears of Black voters in this final GOTV push.'

From an Ossoff senior campaign aide:

Jon Ossoff is in the middle of 25 interviews with last-minute interviews with local press. He’s focusing on the same TV and radio markets—a good portion of the interviews are with Black radio. The Ossoff campaign also is touting making 1.5 million last-minute phone calls to voters from their campaign—this is their campaign only, not the coordinated or PAC efforts. They say they were outspent on TV but hope their field investments will pay off with direct voter contacts.

Both aides tell CNN that Warnock and Ossoff will not be in the same place tonight — senior aides say they’ll be in the Atlanta area.

The campaigns have their own separate data/war rooms but are working in concert tonight.

5:29 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

CNN exit poll: Majority of Georgia voters say presidential election was conducted fairly

From CNN's Jennifer Agiesta

Voters go to the polls at Sara Smith Elementary polling station, in the Buckhead district, on January 5, in Atlanta .
Voters go to the polls at Sara Smith Elementary polling station, in the Buckhead district, on January 5, in Atlanta . Virginie Kippelen/AFP/Getty Images

Georgia voters who cast ballots in the runoff elections that will determine control of the US Senate mostly say that their state’s presidential election in November was conducted fairly, and around three-quarters say they are confident their vote in this election will be counted accurately, according to the early results of an exit poll conducted for CNN and other news networks by Edison Research.

Those views are sharply divided by party, as both Republican candidates for Senate in today’s contests have expressed support for a planned effort to reject Electoral College votes as they are presented to Congress on Wednesday. Among Georgia Republicans who voted in the runoff elections, about three-quarters say that the presidential election in Georgia was not conducted fairly, while more than 9 in 10 Democrats say the election, which President-elect Biden won by less than 12,000 votes, was fair.

Republicans voting in the Senate runoffs appear to have a bit more faith in today’s election than they do in November’s contest. About half of Republicans feel confident their votes in the runoff elections will be counted accurately. Among Democrats, more than 9 in 10 are confident their vote in the runoff will be counted accurately, as are 7 in 10 independents. That’s a reversal compared with November. According to the exit poll in November, 92% of Republicans were confident that votes in their state would be counted accurately, while only 79% of Democrats felt the same.

Demographically, the electorate so far looks a bit older than the November electorate, according to the preliminary results of the exit poll, but it is similar in its makeup by gender, race and education.

Voting in Georgia has occurred amid rising coronavirus cases and hospitalizations nationwide. About 7 in 10 voters say they are at least somewhat worried that they or someone in their families will be infected with the virus. Majorities across party lines express worry about coronavirus reaching their family, including about 8 in 10 Democrats, two-thirds of independents and roughly 6 in 10 Republicans, but the partisan divides are larger over whether to prioritize limiting the spread of the virus or rebuilding the economy.

A slim majority of all voters in the runoff elections say it is more important to contain the coronavirus now, even if it hurts the economy, while about 4 in 10 prioritize rebuilding the economy even if it hurts the effort to contain the spread of the virus, according to preliminary exit poll results. Eight in 10 Democrats prioritize limiting the spread of the virus, while about two-thirds of Republicans say the economy should be the higher priority. Among independents, a narrow majority say limiting the spread is more important. 

The economic effects of the pandemic have reached many who voted in today’s contests. Most Georgia voters say they have faced at least moderate financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic, including about 1 in 6 who say they have suffered severe financial hardship.

The CNN exit poll was conducted by Edison Research for the National Election Pool, a consortium of CNN, ABC News, CBS News and NBC News. Interviews were completed with 5,260 voters in one of three ways: In-person on Election Day at 39 polling places across Georgia, in-person at 25 early voting locations around the state or by telephone for voters who cast ballots by mail or in-person during early voting. Results for the full sample of voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups. 

CNN's David Chalian reports:

5:53 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Georgia secretary of state: Trump has "bad data" and our results are accurate 

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger once again pushed back against President Trump's baseless claims of fraud in the state, saying in an interview this evening that he stands by his state’s presidential election results.

According to an audio recording of a phone call obtained by CNN and first reported by the Washington Post, Trump pushed Raffensperger to "find" votes to overturn the election results after his loss to President-elect Joe Biden.

Raffensperger told CNN that his call with the President made it obvious to him that he had "bad data."

"He just has bad data and when you have good data, you know that you can stand by your results and our results were accurate," Raffensperger told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"We are standing on the truth," the official said.

"We have our results and our results are accurate. What happens in other states I can't say, but I know that we followed the process, we followed the law," he continued.

Raffensperger said he's received death threats, and his wife was sent “sexualized” texts. “What kind of a person does that? That’s disgusting,” he said.

With only a few hours until Georgia's polls close, the secretary of state urged residents to go out and vote. He assured Georgians that today's election is secure.

"I would encourage every Georgian if you haven't voted yet, put away all of this negative stuff that will keep you away from the polls and get out and vote," he said.

"Please get out to vote," the official repeated.

Watch the moment: