Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.
After the November election, Republicans had a 50-48 lead over Democrats in the Senate. The final two seats, both in Georgia, went to runoffs that will be decided on Wednesday AEDT. If Democrats win both of these contests, they will tie Republicans at 50-50 in the Senate, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would cast the tie breaking vote.
One of the Georgia Senate contests was a regular election, while the other was a by-election. In the November regular election, Republican David Perdue won 49.7% to Democrat Jon Ossoff’s 47.9%, with the 2.3% for a Libertarian denying Perdue the 50%+ he needed to win outright.
The November by-election was a “jungle” primary, in which candidates of the same or different parties compete against each other on the same ballot paper. Unless one candidate wins an outright majority, the top two, regardless of party, proceed to a runoff. Democrat Raphael Warnock won 32.9%, with Republican Kelly Loeffler getting the second runoff spot with 25.9%. Republican Doug Collins was third with 20.0%, with most of the remaining votes going to Democrats. Overall vote shares were 49.4% for all Republicans to 48.4% for all Democrats.
After being heavily criticised for understating Trump again, most pollsters are avoiding the Georgia runoffs. The FiveThirtyEight poll aggregate has both Democrats moving into slight leads, with Ossoff leading Perdue by 0.9% and Warnock leading Loeffler by 1.8%.
New York Times analyst Nate Cohn says that early voting has been better for Democrats than in November, partly due to a higher Black share of the electorate than previously. Of course Republicans could have a big election day, but this data is positive for Democrats.
Polls in Georgia close at 11am AEDT Wednesday. In November, the counting was slow in Georgia, with initial results strong for Republicans owing to a rural bias. The suburbs around Atlanta did not start reporting until late on election night.
Trump and Republicans’ anti-democratic nuttiness continues
The day after the Georgia runoffs, there will be a joint session of both chambers of Congress to certify the Electoral College results. In previous elections, this certification has been a formality, but that won’t be the case this time.
On December 14, Joe Biden officially won the Electoral College by 306 votes to 232, the same margin as expected; there were no faithless electors. All of Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud have been soundly rejected by the courts.
Despite this, Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley and Alabama Republican House member Mo Brooks say they will object to results in states Biden won narrowly. According to this Los Angeles Times article, if objections are filed by members of both chambers of Congress, the chambers must adjourn to separately debate and vote on the objections. Votes will be on the public record.
As Democrats hold the House majority and Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell opposes the objections, there is no chance of voiding Biden’s Electoral Votes. But CNN correspondent Jake Tapper says that two Republican House members told him they expect at least 140 House Republicans to object (about two-thirds of the Republican House caucus).
There have also been calls for Vice President Mike Pence, who will retain that office until January 20, to unilaterally refuse to count Electoral Votes from states Biden won narrowly. The Trump-aligned pollster Rasmussen approvingly quoted the Soviet tyrant Joseph Stalin in urging this course. However, Pence is seeking the dismissal of a case that was filed to expand his power.