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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9:14 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Atlanta election workers face death threats and racial slurs, official says

From CNN's Curt Devine

Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron addresses the media regarding the ballot count, at State Farm Arena on Tuesday, November 5, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Fulton County Elections Director Richard Barron addresses the media regarding the ballot count, at State Farm Arena on Tuesday, November 5, in Atlanta, Georgia. Tami Chappell/AFP/Getty Images

Fulton County election workers have faced death threats and racial slurs in the run-up to Election Day, the county director of elections, Richard Barron, told reporters Tuesday.

While Barron said the county experienced no major incidents Tuesday, he said a man made a bomb threat against the county last Wednesday and that the FBI visited that individual at his home Thursday.

“The person said that the Nashville bombing was a practice run for what we would see today at one of our polling places,” Barron said.

“Several” county staffers have also received death threats, Barron said.

“And we have had innumerable racial slurs thrown at our staff, mostly via phone but some on social media as well, and that’s been a really disappointing, just disconcerting turn of events,” he said.

Barron also referenced “some of the things that President Trump said that were false.” He said the county elections department has fully cooperated with investigations involving the Georgia secretary of state.

“We’ll continue to work with that and to conduct our elections in compliance with the law,” he said. 

3:53 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Georgia officials happy with how election night is playing out, but warn it could still be a "very long night"

From CNN's Pamela Brown and Leinz Vales

As votes continue to be counted in Georgia's Senate runoff races, CNN's Pamela Brown said it "could be a very long night," as key counties in the state report the results. 

"Sources I'm speaking to on the ground there in Georgia say even though it could be a very long night they are happy with how things are playing out so far with how quickly they are able to tabulate these early votes," Brown said. 

Brown went on to report what Georgia officials in several counties are telling her about how the vote counting process is going so far:

Fulton County

"We are told by an official there that they have on track on processing and should be able to process almost all or if not all ballots tonight."

DeKalb County

"They're waiting to see how the tabulation is going before deciding their timeline tonight."

Cobb County

"Last time during the general, they left around 3 a.m., 4 a.m. and then resumed several hours later. I am told it is going to be a repeat there in Cobb."

Gwinnett County

"I am told by an official there, if it seems achievable, county officials would work through the night."

Some more context: Brown said certain extensions are helping with the vote-counting process. "It is also important to point out the state's system they would used for signature verification for those absentee ballots to processing them, that is now extended, the hours for that — until 2 a.m.," Brown said. "It was going to shutdown 11 p.m. That'll help these officials in Georgia processing and tabulate those absentee ballots." 

CNN's Pam Brown breaks it down:

9:15 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Here's a breakdown of when votes may be counted in one key Georgia county

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Election officials in Chatham County are prepared to count all night to deliver results, the county's Elections Board Chairman Tom Mahoney told CNN's Martin Savidge tonight.

The first round of votes are expected to come in before 9:30 p.m., Mahoney told CNN. First in-person early votes are expected and then early absentee votes, which could total between 68,000 to 72,000 ballots, he said.

At around midnight, Mahoney said he expects to have close to the total numbers of all those who voted today. 

Officials in Chatham County are hoping to have nearly all the votes counted by the end of the night, but Mahoney warned that if a large influx of new votes come in at around midnight, they will consider pausing the count to continue sometime Wednesday morning. 

"It is their hope, and they believe they still can get this all done tonight," said Savidge.

Even if the vast majority of ballots are counted tonight, however, some overseas and provisional ballots would remain outstanding. Those must be counted by 5 p.m. on Friday. 

CNN's Martin Savidge has more:

3:53 a.m. ET, January 6, 2021

Gwinnett County expects vote counting to continue until Thursday

From CNN's Wes Bruer

Gwinnett County spokesperson Joe Sorenson said they probably will continue counting ballots through Thursday.

The “adjudication teams” are scheduled to arrive that day, to deal with challenged ballots. Officials don’t expect many to need adjudication, it will hold up the process.

Gwinnett County is located in the Atlanta suburbs, a Democratic stronghold.

Right now, poll managers are checking in with their actual ballots and electronic ballots.

The electronic ballots will then be run through a machine in the back room. He said they will probably convene the election board to call it a night at some point later tonight, knowing that there will still be work to do in the coming days. 

Keep in mind that military/overseas ballots have until the end of the day Friday to arrive and get counted.

9:02 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Georgia's largest county is "on track" to process almost all ballots tonight, official says

From CNN's Curt Devine

Fulton County, which includes most of the city of Atlanta, should be able to process the vast majority of its ballots on Tuesday night, according to county elections director Richard Barron.

“We are on track with processing. We should be able to process almost all, if not all, ballots tonight,” Barron told reporters Tuesday.

Barron said more people voted in-person today in the county than on Election Day for the general election in November. He said about 60,000 voted in-person that day, whereas he said he believed about 70,000 voted Tuesday, though he called that number a “rough estimate.”

Barron said the county has received about 108,000 absentee ballots and has scanned about 100,500 of those ballots already. “We will upload more absentee-by-mail results later.”

CNN's Drew Griffin has more:

8:34 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Biden is keeping a close eye on Georgia tonight

From CNN's Jeff Zeleny

President-elect Joe Biden is at home tonight in Wilmington, Delaware, closely watching results from the Georgia Senate races. Yes, the success of his agenda hinges on the outcome – but so, too, may his nominee for attorney general.

Two weeks before taking office, Biden has yet to reveal his decision for one of the most important positions in his Cabinet. But in fact, two people familiar with the matter tell CNN, he has yet to make a final choice.

Late last month, Biden told reporters he was not waiting until the Georgia races to make his decision. But tonight, that’s exactly what he is doing. Advisers insist it’s because of a variety of factors, not simply learning whether Democrats will win control of the Senate.

Biden is still weighing two top contenders: Federal Judge Merrick Garland and former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. Tonight, a person close to the process tells CNN that former acting attorney general Sally Yates is still in the mix, adding: “She would instantly be a top contender if Democrats win control of the Senate.”

But if Republicans maintain control of the Senate, Yates faces a far more difficult path to confirmation – and Biden advisers have said she is unlikely to be even nominated. Many Republicans remain furious that the FBI launched its investigation of ties between Russia and the Trump campaign during her tenure. She was fired by President Trump for refusing to defend his travel ban.

Biden has been locked in complicated deliberations over his attorney general nominee. Could Georgia change that calculus yet again?

8:32 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Here's where things stand in the runoff races 

Results continue to come in out of Georgia, helping paint an early picture of the Senate runoff races. Most of the results coming in so far are from early voting, which favors Democrats. 

At least 43% of the estimated vote is in, with Democrats currently leading. 

Here's where things stand in the race between Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock and Republican candidate Kelly Loeffler:

Here's where things stand in the race between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican candidate David Perdue:

8:40 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

It's still too early to call the Senate runoff races. Here are key things to know about the candidates.

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Getty Images
Getty Images

Some polls in Georgia are closing and results are starting to come in. It is still too early to call the crucial Senate runoff races.

The country is laser-focused on tonight's election for one key reason: it will determine which party controls the Senate.

Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock are looking to defeat incumbent Republican Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively.

Here are key things to know about the candidates:

  • Kelly Loeffler: In December 2019, Loeffler was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to take over the Senate seat previously held by Republican Johnny Isakson, who retired over health concerns. Loeffler, who was sworn in to office in January 2020, was a political novice, a prominent GOP donor and a businesswoman. She was an executive at a financial services firm in Atlanta but left the post to serve in the Senate. She is also known as a co-owner of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream. She had considered running for the Senate in 2014. Loeffler is facing off against Warnock.
  • Raphael Warnock: Warnock, a Democrat, is a senior pastor at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, which has long been a haven for the Black freedom struggle. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became a co-pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church with his father in 1960. In a video announcing his candidacy last year, Warnock described his path from Savannah's Kayton Homes housing project to the pulpit. "Some might ask why a pastor thinks he should serve in the Senate," said Warnock. "I've always thought that my impact doesn't stop at the church door. That's actually where it starts."
  • Jon Ossoff: Ossoff, a Democrat, rose to national prominence during a 2017 special House election that the political newcomer nearly won in a longtime conservative stronghold in Georgia. He ultimately lost to Republican Karen Handel in what was at the time the most expensive House race in history. Ossoff describes himself as a media executive, investigative journalist and small business owner on his campaign website. He began working with a former BBC journalist, Ron McCullagh, in 2013, and then used money from an inheritance to buy a stake in McCullagh's investigative film company and renamed it Insight TWI, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The company has produced documentaries on mass killings and sexual slavery by ISIS, and a corruption investigation on judges in Ghana. Ossoff is attempting to unseat Perdue.
  • David Perdue: Perdue, a close Trump ally, has served as a senator from Georgia since his election in 2014. Perdue has served on the Armed Services, Banking, Budget, and Foreign Relations committees, according to his Senate website. He had never run for public office before 2014, according to his Senate website, and prior to running for office was the CEO of Reebok athletic brand and Dollar General stores. Perdue's term technically expired Sunday when a new Congress was sworn in, leaving his seat temporarily vacant, according to Sydney Butler, chief of staff to the secretary of the Senate — who oversees the chamber's operations and procedures. Officials in Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp's and Perdue's offices say that even if he is projected the winner Tuesday, the seat will remain vacant until the runoff results are certified — which could take up to two weeks.

8:07 p.m. ET, January 5, 2021

Pence just left the White House and won't watch Georgia returns with Trump

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins 

Vice President Mike Pence just left the White House moments ago, signaling he won't watch the returns from the Georgia Senate runoff races with President Trump.

It's unusual given Trump and Pence typically spend election nights together at the White House and both have campaigned on behalf of Republicans in tonight's race.

The absence of a viewing party may be more in line with the current state of their relationship, given Trump's building frustration with Pence over his role (or lack of) in tomorrow's proceedings in Congress that will count and certify the Electoral College votes for president and vice president.

Pence and Trump dined together today as officials are bracing themselves for Trump's reaction to the congressional certification. 

Republicans in both chambers plan to object to the count and delay the inevitable certification of President-elect Joe Biden's 2020 election win.