In the days after the Nov. 3 election, Georgia was one of several states where the vote count seemed to progress agonizingly slowly. But for several reasons, it’s unlikely that it will take as long to count the votes in today’s two runoff elections, which will determine control of the Senate. It’s even possible — but certainly not guaranteed — that we’ll know who won very early Wednesday.
Two factors work in favor of a faster count this time around. First, fewer races are on the ballot, which means less work for election officials. Second, after the general election, the Georgia State Election Board enacted a rule requiring counties to begin processing early and absentee ballots at least a week before future elections, allowing officials to complete time-consuming prep work even though they can’t actually count the ballots until the polls close.
If all goes smoothly, we could know who won by 1 a.m. Wednesday, according to David Worley, the sole Democratic member of the State Election Board.
The biggest questions are whether everything will, in fact, go smoothly, and just how close the races will be. Both races are very competitive, but in terms of when we’ll know who won, there’s a big difference between a race decided by two percentage points and one decided by 0.2 percentage points.
In an extremely tight race, results could be delayed several days while late-arriving ballots come in. The vast majority of Georgians have to get their ballots in by the time the polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern, but military and overseas voters have an extra three days as long as they mail their ballots by Tuesday. Then there are provisional ballots, which are cast on election day but take longer to process because officials have to verify each voter’s eligibility.
And, of course, there is always the possibility of a recount. Under Georgia law, a candidate can request one if the margin is less than half a percentage point. That wouldn’t be surprising: In the presidential race in November, Mr. Biden won by less than a quarter of a percentage point.
“Just like in November, it’s very possible Americans will go to bed without knowing who won,” The Associated Press said in guidance published Monday.