Tens of thousands of mail ballots are still being counted in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff elections, an elections official said on Jan. 6.
Over 57,500 votes are still being processed by counties, including nearly 18,000 in DeKalb County, according to Gabriel Sterling, a manager in Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office.
The numbers offered by Sterling appear to clash in at least one place with county officials. Richard Barron, Fulton County’s elections director, said shortly before the briefing that nearly 7,500 absentee ballots were left to process. Sterling said Fulton had just 5,294 left.
State officials have asked counties to get all of the mail ballots counted by 1 p.m., but some counties wouldn’t meet the deadline, Sterling predicted.
“These folks are all tired. They’ve had a long day, and a long week, and a long month,” he said.
Thousands of provisional ballots also need to be counted—Sterling guessed that the number is south of 10,000—and about 14,000 military and overseas ballots are outstanding. The latter can be counted as long as they arrive by Friday and were postmarked by Tuesday.
The runoffs saw Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) face pastor Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, and Republican David Perdue face filmmaker Jon Ossoff, a Democrat.
Warnock has declared victory late on Jan. 5 and a number of news organizations have said he won. Warnock leads by over 54,000 votes as of the morning of Jan. 6. Loeffler hasn’t yet conceded; she told supporters that she still had a “path to victory.”
Ossoff declared victory on Jan. 6, with a lead of more than 17,000 votes as of Jan. 6. Perdue’s campaign responded that “this is an exceptionally close election that will require time and transparency to be certain the results are fair and accurate.”
The campaign added, “We believe, in the end, Senator Perdue will be victorious.”
Perdue had beaten Ossoff by some 88,000 votes in the 2020 general election, while Loeffler and Warnock were the top two vote-getters in a free-for-all election to finish the term of retired Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.).
Sterling, a Republican, said officials expect both races to end up outside a margin of 0.5 percent. If a race falls within that margin, a recount would be conducted.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden issued a statement on the races on Jan. 6.
“I congratulate Reverend Warnock on his groundbreaking win last night and I am hopeful that when the count is complete, Jon Ossoff will also be victorious. I congratulate the people of Georgia, who turned out in record numbers once again, just as they did in November, to elect two new senators, demand action, and call on our elected leaders to end the gridlock and move us forward as a nation,” he said.
A third runoff race saw Lauren McDonald Jr. and Daniel Blackman vying for a spot on the Georgia Public Service Commission. McDonald, a Republican, was ahead as of the morning on Jan. 6 by just under 69,000 votes.
President Donald Trump alleged a voter dump happened after at least two counties paused counting overnight. Videos of news coverage of the race appeared to show Perdue’s vote count go downwards in real-time.
“They just happened to find 50,000 ballots late last night. The USA is embarrassed by fools. Our Election Process is worse than that of third world countries!” Trump tweeted on Jan. 6.
However, Sterling said officials saw no evidence of irregularities.
“We’ve seen nothing widespread, nothing that seems real in any shape or form,” he said.
Sterling said that if both Republican senators end up losing, it would be Trump’s fault, along with others who alleged election fraud occurred in the general election.
A reporter then asked him whether he has concern about blurring the line between public official and pundit with his frequent comments on politics.
“On occasion, but people ask my personal opinion,” he said. “I’m an American. I have a First Amendment right to answer some of these things.”
Election Day turnout in the race ended up at 1.3 million, over 300,000 higher than during the presidential election. With over 3 million early votes, the race also set a new runoff record in the state.
Sterling suggested that the turnout was likely a result of Trump encouraging Republicans not to use mail or other early voting options. He claimed that Republicans turned out on Election Day because “it started dawning on them, ‘We’re going to lose this if we don’t turn out.'”
“While Republicans were busy attacking the governor and my boss, Democrats were knocking on doors,” he said.