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Here’s why one of Georgia’s 2 Senate runoff races is still too early to call

Click to play video 'Georgia votes in crucial U.S. Senate run-offs' Georgia votes in crucial U.S. Senate run-offs
Voters in Georgia headed to the polls again on Tuesday to cast their ballots in a run-off vote that will determine who will control the U.S. Senate. But outgoing President Donald Trump just won't give up on his baseless claims of voter fraud. Jackson Proskow reports – Jan 5, 2021

Two U.S. Senate runoff elections that together will determine which party controls the legislative chamber for the next two years were held in Georgia on Tuesday.

Early Wednesday, The Associated Press declared Democrat Raphael Warnock the winner of one of the races over appointed Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a contest that will send him to Washington to finish the remainder of retired GOP Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term. The other race between Republican David Perdue, who is seeking a second term, and Democrat Jon Ossoff remained too early to call.

Read more: Democrats to control U.S. Senate as Wornock, Ossoff win Georgia runoffs

Georgia has become a political focal point since the Nov. 3 general election, when none of the candidates in the state’s two Senate contests earned more than 50 per cent of the vote. That forced both races to the Jan. 5 runoff.

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Click to play video 'Democrats edge out Republicans in Georgia Senate’s run-off' Democrats edge out Republicans in Georgia Senate’s run-off
Democrats edge out Republicans in Georgia Senate’s run-off – Jan 6, 2021

Here’s a look at the contests:

Why Warnock was declared the winner

Warnock defeated Loeffler after an analysis of outstanding votes showed there was no way for Loeffler to catch up to his lead.

Warnock held a lead over Loeffler of about 46,500 votes as of 2:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, an edge that is likely to grow as more ballots are counted, many of which were in Democratic-leaning areas. An analysis showed that there were not enough votes left in Republican-leaning areas for Loeffler to catch his lead.

What about the other race?

The Senate race between Perdue and Ossoff was too early to call.

Click to play video 'Georgia senate runoff: Raphael Warnock accuses GOP opponents of ‘aiding and abetting’ Trump' Georgia senate runoff: Raphael Warnock accuses GOP opponents of ‘aiding and abetting’ Trump
Georgia senate runoff: Raphael Warnock accuses GOP opponents of ‘aiding and abetting’ Trump – Jan 5, 2021

As of 2:15 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Ossoff had a lead of 9,527 votes out of nearly 4.4 million counted, or a margin of less than 0.2 percentage points.

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Read more: Trump, Biden campaign in Georgia ahead of high-stakes Senate runoffs

There were still some mail ballots and in-person early votes left to be counted statewide, the majority of which are in Democratic-leaning counties.

Under Georgia law, a trailing candidate may request a recount when the margin of an election is less than or equal to 0.5 percentage points.

Click to play video 'Georgia runoff elections to decide balance of power in U.S. Senate for Democrats, Republicans' Georgia runoff elections to decide balance of power in U.S. Senate for Democrats, Republicans
Georgia runoff elections to decide balance of power in U.S. Senate for Democrats, Republicans – Jan 5, 2021

What’s at stake

The outcomes of the two races will help determine the country’s political trajectory over the next two years. If Democrats win both, they will have a 50-50 seat split with Republicans in the Senate, with Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris poised to cast tie-breaking votes.

That would enable President-elect Joe Biden to enact an ambitious agenda that includes liberal priorities like raising the minimum wage, approving additional economic stimulus to combat the effects of the pandemic and expanding health care.

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Read more: Georgia Senate runoffs offer clues about post-Trump politics

But Republicans need to carry only one of the seats to hold a slim 51-49 majority that could serve as a conservative bulwark to limit Biden’s ambitions.

The fact that Georgia will determine which of these two dueling visions could become reality speaks to its recent emergence as a swing state. Georgia has been a Republican stronghold for decades, like much of the rest of the South. These two elections are testing just how much the state has changed.

Georgia’s government is dominated by the GOP. A Democrat hasn’t won a U.S. Senate contest in the state since former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller in 2000. And until Biden won it by just under 12,000 votes in November, a Democratic presidential contender hadn’t carried the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

Click to play video 'Georgia senate runoff: Jon Ossoff wonders if Trump phone call may have been ‘illegal’' Georgia senate runoff: Jon Ossoff wonders if Trump phone call may have been ‘illegal’
Georgia senate runoff: Jon Ossoff wonders if Trump phone call may have been ‘illegal’ – Jan 5, 2021

But it has slowly morphed into a battleground — a change driven in part by demographic shifts, particularly in the economically vibrant area of metropolitan Atlanta.

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As older, white, Republican-leaning voters die, they’ve been replaced by a younger and more racially diverse cast of people, many of whom moved to the Atlanta area from other states — and carried their politics with them.

Overall, demographic trends show that the state’s electorate is becoming younger and more diverse each year. Like other metro areas, Atlanta’s suburbs have also moved away from Republicans. In 2016, Hillary Clinton flipped both Cobb and Gwinnett counties. Four years later, electoral maps showed a sea of blue in the more than half-dozen counties surrounding Atlanta.

In 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams galvanized Black voters in her bid to become the country’s first African American woman to lead a state, a campaign she narrowly lost.