The five-member Georgia State Election Board, chaired by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voted on Monday to extend the use of the 24/7 monitored drop boxes for use through the runoffs. Use of the boxes was originally set to expire in late December.
The move comes amid a surge in absentee ballot requests in the runoff elections. Officials said that as of Monday morning 762,000 requests for absentee ballots had been submitted.
A second rule adopted allows counties to continue to begin processing absentee ballots two weeks before Election Day – but now also mandates them to start processing them no later than a week and one day ahead of the election. But as per Georgia law, none of the ballots would be tabulated and counted until the polls close on Jan. 5.
The board didn’t discuss or rule on a measure dealing with residency concerns. The secretary of state’s office opted instead to send an official election bulletin to counties regarding residency information.
The deadline to register to vote for the runoff elections is Dec. 7 – and early in-person voting in the twin contests begins on Dec. 14.
Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa on Monday becomes the latest high profile Republican to travel to Georgia to campaign with Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, the Republican incumbents in the runoff elections.
The current balance of power for the next Senate coming out of this month’s elections is 50 Republicans and 48 Democrats. That means Democrats must win both of Georgia’s runoff elections to make it a 50-50 Senate. If that occurs, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would be the tie-breaking vote, giving her party a razor-thin majority in the chamber.
In Georgia, where state law dictates a runoff if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, Perdue narrowly missed avoiding a runoff, winning 49.75% of the vote. Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff trails by roughly 87,000 votes.
In the other race, Loeffler captured nearly 26% of the vote in a whopping 20-candidate special election to fill the final two years of the term of former GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson. The Democratic candidate in the runoff, Rev. Raphael Warnock, won nearly 33% of the vote in the first round.