Update on Jan. 6 at 4:40 p.m.

The Associated Press called that Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff won his Senate runoff against Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) on Wednesday afternoon. This win secured a Senate majority for the Democrats, who have not held a majority since 2014.

Ossoff declared victory in an Instagram video statement, in which he thanked his supporters and stated, “This campaign has been about health and jobs and justice for the people of the state … and they will be my guiding principles as I serve this state in the U.S. Senate.”

Updated on Jan. 6 at 2:47 a.m.

Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock won the Senate runoff election against appointed Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), becoming the first Black Senator in the state’s history, according to a Wednesday morning projection by the Associated Press. Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff gained a lead over Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), but the race has not been officially called.

The final count will extend into Wednesday as mail-in ballots from DeKalb and Cobb Counties, two Democratic strongholds, are counted.

Warnock was up 2 percentage points against Loeffler and Ossoff was up 0.38 percentage points against Perdue, with 98% of the vote reported as of 9:50 a.m. Under Georgia law, if the margin separating two candidates is within half a percentage point, the losing candidate can solicit a recount.

The outcome of these runoffs will determine which party controls the Senate that is currently split 50-48, with Republicans holding the majority. If Ossoff and Warnock win, Democrats will reclaim a narrow Senate majority with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote — an outcome necessary for President-elect Joe Biden to push his legislative agenda forward.

If Democrats gain control of the Senate, it will be the first time in 10 years that the party controls both the White House and both houses of Congress.

With nearly 4.3 million ballots cast, the runoff vote counts exceeded prior Georgia runoffs by about one million. Nearly three million votes were cast early, with about one million votes cast via absentee, slightly down from the nearly 3.9 million people who voted early ahead of the presidential election. While primarily Democratic counties experienced high early turnout, Republican-controlled counties lagged behind significantly. 

A record one million Black voters cast their ballots early, according to analysis by Associate Professor of Political Science Bernard Fraga.

Democratic candidates typically don’t fare well in Georgia runoffs. A Democratic candidate only won one of eight statewide runoff elections in Georgia since the 1990s. 

No Democrat has won a Georgia Senate seat since 2000. If Warnock wins his race, he will become Georgia’s first Black senator. 

In a Wednesday morning speech all but declaring victory, Warnock proclaimed, “we were told that we couldn’t win this election, but tonight we were … told that anything is possible.” A statement from Ossoff’s campaign manager Ellen Foster tweeted at 1:25 a.m. read: “When all the votes are counted we fully expect that Jon Ossoff will have won this election.” 

Loeffler, addressing a crowded room of unmasked supporters, stated the election “is a game of inches … we’re gonna win.” Perdue’s campaign tweeted a statement at 2:22 a.m., writing, “We will mobilize every resource and exhaust every legal recourse to ensure all properly cast ballots are legally counted.”

The races are also the most expensive legislative races in U.S. history, with the four candidates combined spending over $830 million between the general election and the runoff. Ossoff received the most campaign donations of any candidate, bringing in nearly $140 million.

The runoffs are the only legislative races to cross the $300 million spending threshold. Loeffler and Warnock spent nearly $363 million and Perdue and Ossoff spent nearly $470 million as of Jan. 4, the most expensive legislative races in history.    

In the final weeks of the election, Warnock and Ossoff campaigned on a promise to help send $2,000 stimulus checks to American households, an effort that previously failed to pass the Senate. 

“If you’re like millions of Americans all across this country, you need the money, you need the help and you need it now,” Biden said at an Atlanta rally for Ossoff and Warnock on Jan. 4. “Look Georgia, there’s no one in America with more power to make that happen than you.” 

President Donald Trump held a rally on Jan. 4 in Georgia to make a final push for Georgia voters to reelect Loeffler and Perdue. At that event, however, Trump promulgated his false claims of widespread voter fraud and that he won the state, only briefly praising Perdue and Loeffler. 

Cars parked in front of Druid Hills High School, the polling location for Emory University, a few hours before the end of voting on Election Day. (The Emory Wheel/Isaiah Poritz)

Trump berated prominent Republican officials like Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger for certifying Biden’s win in the State, prompting chants of “F*** Kemp” from the crowd. He urged Raffensperger and other Georgia officials “to find 11,780 votes” during a call on Jan. 2, a last-minute attempt to illicitly change the outcome in his favor.

In a statement on Twitter, the Young Democrats of Emory wrote, “Emory students played a critical role in this election and we are excited about the rising of a New, more equitable and just, South.”

Some students, like Laura Denick (21B), switched their voter registration and flew to Georgia specifically for the runoffs. 

“I decided to fly back to Atlanta to vote because I recognized the magnitude of the race,” she said. “Recognizing that my absentee ballot may not arrive in time, I decided it was necessary to vote in person.”

While Emory Fair Fight U President Alexis Greenblatt (21C) praised mobilization among young people and people of color, she expressed shock regarding how fast votes were counted on Jan. 5.

“To be completely honest I thought we wouldn’t have this many votes counted until at least Thursday or Friday,” Greenblatt said. “Based on how the November election went, I would’ve been surprised if any of the four candidates had a huge lead in their race.”

Sam Bochner (23C), a Brooklyn, New York native, had the opportunity to vote in person on Election Day because he lived at Clairmont Campus over the break. 

“It can be hard to feel as though your vote really matters,” Bochner said. “Since the results of this election will determine which party controls the senate, I felt as though my vote directly influenced the trajectory of our country.”

Isaiah Poritz, Anjali Huynh, Madison Bober and Ninad Kulkarni contributed reporting.

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Editor-in-Chief | Matthew Chupack (he/him, 24C) is from Northbrook, Illinois, majoring in sociology & religion and minoring in community building & social change on a pre-law track. Outside of the Wheel, Chupack serves on the Emory College Honor Council, is vice president of Behind the Glass: Immigration Reflections, Treasurer of Omicron Delta Kappa leadership honor society and an RA in Dobbs Hall. In his free time, he enjoys trying new restaurants around Atlanta, catching up on pop culture news and listening to country music.