» Georgia’s long moment in the national spotlight culminates today, when state voters determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

» Georgia voters also will elect a member of the state Public Service Commission, which regulates energy and utility rates and issues.

» Most polling places across the state closed 7 p.m., though a few stayed open a few minutes longer because of problems earlier in the day. State election officials said things generally went smoothly, with average wait times of about 1 minute.

7 p.m. update

Poll close in Georgia - now comes the counting

Polls closed and across Georgia Tuesday evening and election officials began counting ballots in an election that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Most polling places across the state closed 7 p.m., though a few stayed open a few extra minutes because of problems earlier in the day. In Chatham County, voting at the Old Courthouse on Bull Street was extended to 7:33 p.m. and the Beach High location was extended to 7:35 p.m. due to technical difficulties.

State election officials said voting generally went smoothly Tuesday, with short lines and average wait times of about 1 minute.

Now comes the counting. You can find live election results and political analysis from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution here.

6:30 p.m. update

Polls close in half an hour

By Wilborn P. Nobles III

With polls closing in half an hour, some Georgians were still casting their ballots.

Reign Stevens voted for Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock at Canby Lane Elementary School in Decatur. The former legislative aide said she retired after she was diagnosed with cancer, but she felt compelled to vote in person to bring an end to the favoritism in politics that was brought on by “the Trump party.”

“I would like to see change be brought about in America,” said Stevens, 49.

Reign Stevens

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Pamela Woodland voted for the two Democrats in Decatur. Woodland, 49, said she thinks they’ll push Congress to expand wages. The nurse’s aide works full-time and part-time jobs to make ends meet.

“I’m working two jobs just for rent,” she said.

5:27 p.m. update

Few problems with Georgia voting in final hours

By Mark Niesse

Polling places in two Georgia counties will stay open late to accommodate votes who may have been held up by problems earlier in the day.

But for the most part, the runoff has gone smoothly across Georgia, with wait times averaging about 1 minute, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager.

”It’s been sort of calm,” Sterling said. “We haven’t seen anything too over-the-top crazy, which is good. We want steady. We want to see that the people who want to cast their vote, that their votes are going to count.”

Georgia voting system manager Gabriel Sterling (right) and sign language interpreter David Cowan at a press conference Tuesday.

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Problems with election equipment in Columbia County, near Augusta, will require two polling places to stay open a few minutes late, until 7:01 p.m. and 7:04 p.m. Some voters had to fill out paper emergency ballots when polls opened in the county because of programming issues on some ballot scanners and poll manager access cards.

A polling place in Tift County in South Georgia will also stay open late, until 7:40 p.m. The reason wasn’t immediately clear, Sterling said.

Across the state, two ballot scanners jammed and one wasn’t scanning properly, he said. In addition, six touchscreens had to be replaced.

But that’s a small number, about 0.02% of voting touchscreens across the state.

4 p.m. update

Butts County firm agrees to let employees vote

By Erin Woo

After facing scrutiny from civil rights organizations and a backlash on social media, American Woodmark Corporation is now allowing its employees to leave early to vote.

The manufacturing plant in Jackson, Ga., will stop production at 4:30 p.m. in order to let its workers vote, according to a statement posted to Facebook shortly after 2 p.m. Originally, workers reported that they were required to stay at work until after polls closed at 7 p.m., according to Harold Franklin, a lawyer for the nonpartisan organization Election Protection.

American Woodmark issued a written statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution confirming it will close to allow its employees to vote.

We apologize for the misunderstanding of today’s plant closing time,” the company said. “American Woodmark supports the right to vote for all of our employees.”

Georgia law requires that employees be allowed time off to vote on election day, as long as the time off does not exceed two hours and the employees’ work hours do not allow at least two hours to vote at the beginning or end of the day.

Workers’ shifts started at 7 or 8 a.m. and they were originally required to stay until 7 p.m., the same time that polls close, Franklin said.

Earlier today, Election Protection contacted the Secretary of State’s Office, which said it would call American Woodmark to tell them that Georgia law requires employers to give employees time to vote.

The ACLU of Georgia also sent an email to Darron Thomas, a plant leadership team member at American Woodmark, warning that “denying employees the opportunity to vote violates state law and retaliating against employees who leave work to vote may expose your company to legal liability.”

3:36 p.m. update

Cobb precinct to stay open extra 10 minutes

By Kristal Dixon

A Cobb County precinct will remain open for a short while after other polling places close.

Cobb County Elections Director Janine Eveler said the polling place at the Ford Center at 4181 Atlanta Street, Powder Springs, did not open on time and will stay open until 7:10 p.m. to compensate for that delayed start. It was not clear what caused the delay.

3 p.m. update

Abortion, guns, healthcare, change: Why some Georgians are voting

By Jeremy Redmon and Adrianne Murchison

It took Joanna Elrod just a few minutes to cast her ballot for Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler at the Calhoun Recreation Department. The CVS Pharmacy worker encountered no lines at her polling site in Gordon County, where Donald Trump won more than 80% of the vote in 2016.

“I am very pro-life and very pro-gun and pro-family, so I will always vote for whoever I think the best candidate is,” said Elrod, a Trump supporter.

Joanna Elrod

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Zaki Ali voted at Lutheran Church of the Resurrection in Marietta. The 21-year-old said the pandemic was on his mind while voting and today is an opportunity to make a change.

“For me, healthcare is a big thing, stimulus checks coming, just making sure America is okay because we’ve been going through COVID for so long,” he said. “I feel like the government could’ve done better.”

Ali, a student at Georgia State University, said he voted for Ossoff and Warnock.

He said he’s noticing that his peers are realizing how important voting is. Many post on social media calling on each other to vote, he said. Even so, the election season has been tiring, he said.

“At the end of the day we’re trying to create change,” Ali said. “If that comes with that, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Zaki Ali

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Michael Lounsberry, 40 said he thinks everyone is fatigued by the candidates’ campaigns. But it was essential to vote, he said, because it’s a right that not everyone has.

“I think there’s definitely a healing that’s needed and I hope it’s possible,” said Lounsberry, who works in the technology industry.

In Rome, Chaka Johnson and her daughter Chakielle Dennis cast their ballots for Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

”We really need change – change for the better,” Johnson said. “Peace, love happiness. And that is what it is all about.”

Chaka Johnson and her daughter Chakielle Dennis

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1:43 p.m. update

Turnout steady in Dalton

By Jeremy Redmon

Dalton - Voters are steadily streaming into Dug Gap Baptist Church here in Whitfield County, a Republican stronghold that overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump in 2016.

Dina Poindexter, a carpet designer from Dalton, showed up here around noon to cast her ballots for Republican U.S. Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler. She called the 2020 presidential election “fishy.”

Dina Poindexter

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“I’m really concerned about our country right now. I think the voter fraud and that type of stuff is very scary to me when our elections, I feel like, have been compromised,” said Poindexter, who voted for Trump. “At the end of the day, I still have to come and cast my vote. It is my right. If it is not fair, I can’t do anything about that.”

Asked why she voted for Perdue and Loeffler, she said she worries about the pandemic and the economy.

“I do feel like there needs to be some checks and balances within our country,” she said.

Turnout in Whitfield was “steady” Tuesday morning, said Mary Hammontree, the county’s registrar. There were lines early at a polling station in a Varnell, she said, but they have since died down.

“It is a steady pace today… not like piled up with long lines, but steady,” she said.

Before Tuesday, 12,177 county residents voted early in person, and 4,780 mailed in ballots, she added. That represents about 31% of Whitfield’s 55,000 registered voters. But there was concern about turnout in the area - which drew a visit from Trump Monday.

“It is very high in a runoff election, I can tell you that,” she said. “Normally, in a runoff we may vote – it depends on what race it is – we may vote 8,000 to 10,000 total -- maybe 12,000 total.”

Asked about the Republican allegations of widespread irregularities in the 2020 presidential election, she said: “Not here in Whitfield.”

“Now I don’t know about anywhere else,” she said, “but I can tell you about Whitfield.”

1 p.m. update

Few lines, lower turnout so far at the polls

By Mark Niesse, Erin Woo, J.D. Capelouto and Zachary Hansen

Voters experienced few lines Tuesday morning and turnout appeared to be lower than on Election Day in the presidential election, said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager.

Average wait times were between one and five minutes in most areas, with the longest waits reaching 30 minutes in Cobb and DeKalb counties in metro Atlanta, he said.

“It’s easy, it’s simple, and there isn’t a line right now,” Sterling said. “No big long lines, no big issues.”

Nearly 3.1 million Georgia voters had voted early or returned absentee ballots by Tuesday morning, and hundreds of thousands more were expected to show up at the polls.

About 988,000 people voted on Election Day on Nov. 3, but turnout so far Tuesday seemed to be lower based on reports of short waits, Sterling said. Election officials have no way of knowing actual turnout numbers until ballots are counted, he said.

Some voting locations experienced scattered and minor problems, such as printer and scanner jams or locked-up screens, he said. But technical issues were quickly corrected.

The most significant problems occurred in Columbia County, where voters in some precincts had to fill out paper emergency ballots because of problems with voting equipment.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office, a small number of the keys that start up the paper-ballot scanners were programmed incorrectly. In addition, a few poll worker cards were programmed incorrectly, which meant some poll workers were unable to start the touch screen voting machines used for paper-ballot voting.

The office said the correct keys and voter cards were delivered to the relevant precincts with a law enforcement escort.

The issue was resolved by 10 a.m., Sterling said.

The problems in Columbia County appear to have gotten the attention of President Donald Trump:

Sterling had a quick response to the president:

Meanwhile, Paulding County reported a ballot scanner went down at the Crossroad Library. Voters placed their ballots in an “emergency ballot box” until the scanner was replaced about 30 minutes later, when scanning resumed.

“Voting did not cease at any time and all ballots have been tabulated,” the county said.

In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said “Georgia’s election administration is hitting a new milestone for effectiveness and efficiency.

“I have always said that after every election, half the people will be happy and half will be disappointed, but everyone should be confident in the reliability of the results,” Raffensperger said.

Patty Hepburn, 71, the poll manager at Lakeside High School in Atlanta, said there are no lines. But the steady trickle of people coming in from the parking lot to vote has been busier than November, she said.

So far, Hepburn said, everything’s going smoothly.

“One voter sent in his absentee ballot so long ago he forgot he had already voted, but we told him once was all he was allowed,” she said.

Sheila Akers, 63, a line ambassador at Briarlake Elementary School in Decatur, said there was a line this morning. But since then it’s been “sporadic.” She’s heard nothing but positive feedback from voters.

Fulton County Commission Chairman Robb Pitts stopped by the Atlanta History Center just after 12:30. He said he is visiting 50 precincts throughout the county today to see how things are going.

Pitts said things are “slow and steady” everywhere.

”There haven’t been any issues at all,” he said. “We’re prepared to give Fulton County another A-plus.”

He didn’t provide an estimate for when the results might come in, but he said “things will move pretty quickly” after the absentee ballots start being counted at 7 p.m.

voting lines have been pretty much nonexistent at New Bethel AME Church near Lithonia.

Lisa Park, 68, said it’s been her polling location for decades, and she’s rarely had to wait in the past. It took her less than five minutes to vote shortly before 1 p.m. Tuesday.

She wasn’t surprised by the low turnout, since so many people voted early in the runoff elections. Despite the elevated controversy over voting accuracy, Park said she wasn’t worried at all about whether her vote will count.

“It’s in God’s hands,” she said.

12:30 p.m. update

Absentee ballot never came? You can still vote today

By David Wickert

If you’ve been waiting in vain for your Georgia absentee ballot to arrive in the mail, fear not. You can still cast your ballot in person today.

Just ask media mogul Tyler Perry.

Under Georgia law, voters who request – but do not return – absentee ballots can cast ballots on Election Day. They’ll need to attest that they have not voted by absentee ballot.

Perry was among those who found themselves casting provisional ballots Tuesday after waiting for an absentee ballot that never arrived. As he shared on Twitter, he ventured out to vote in person Tuesday.

11:45 a.m. update

Spending tops $833 million in U.S. Senate races

By Chris Joyner

Groups looking to sway the outcome of Georgia’s two Senate runoff elections continued to the last minute, pouring money into what are already the two most expensive Senate races in history.

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, more than $833 million has been spent by the four campaigns and outside groups supporting them, blanketing the airwaves and stuffing mailboxes across the state. Much of that money has come from organizations with no direct connection to Georgia.

Flip the West, a California-based Democratic political action committee organized to support candidates in western states, flipped to Georgia last month and spent around $50,000 on phone calls, postcards and text messages aimed at getting Democratic voters in Georgia to the polls.

The Working Families Party, a New York-based progressive group, has spent more than 10 times that amount in the past two months for Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. The group’s PAC estimated it would spend $600,000 on payroll alone for door-to-door canvassing in Georgia during the runoff period.

There’s been plenty of last-minute spending on the Republican side as well. The conservative Winning for Women PAC, based in Washington D.C., reported another $50,000 spent on digital ads for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, bringing its total spent on her to more than $600,000. Valor America, a Texas-based Republican PAC, spent $44,000 on text messaging to win the election for Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue.

11:10 a.m. update

Georgians speak: Why we’re voting

By Atlanta Journal-Constitution staff

As Georgians went to the polls Tuesday, they brought a variety of motivations for voting.

Samara Robertson of Acworth voted at the North Cobb Senior Center because “as a black woman, I felt like I needed to vote.

“The only way you can make change is to get out and vote,” she said. She voted for Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rafael Warnock.

Paula Youngblood voted for Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue in the runoff Tuesday at the North Cobb Senior Center. She said it was important for her to keep the Senate on GOP hands. When asked if she felt if her vote was secure, Youngblood shrugged and said, “who knows?”

“I voted and that’s all you can do,” she said.

Andrew and Porscha Williams, both of Austell, voted for Democrats Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff at the Collar Community Center. Porscha Williams said she didn’t want Biden to experience the same situation that confronted former President Barack Obama, who saw his legislation and judicial nominations blocked in a Republican Senate.

Andrew Williams said he wanted to see the issue of climate change addressed, and he said a Democratic-led Senate will provide a better chance to re-implement Obama-era rules that were rolled back by Trump.

Patricia Margeson of Kennesaw said voting took just a few minutes and “was a breeze” Tuesday at the Ben Robertson Community Center. Margeson said she voted for Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

”It looks like a close election and they need all our votes,” she said.

Margeson said she hopes other voters will help keep Perdue and Loeffler on the U.S. Senate.

”The wrong vote could change our country and our way of life,” she said.

Annie Anthon

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Eighty-year-old Atlanta resident Annie Anthony voted at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta. How many elections has she voted in? “All of them. Every last one of ‘em. I was raised that way.”

She wants politicians to “help the people who need the help.” She voted this morning for Ossoff and Warnock.

Courtney Jefferson, 36, said it took about five minutes to vote at the Pinckneyville Community Center in Gwinnett County Tuesday morning. He said he has voted in every election since 2000, when his candidate Al Gore lost for president.

Jefferson said his grandfather’s death in June with COVID-19 gave him extra motivation this time.

“Ever since then, it’s been a very real thing,” he said. “I felt like voting was the only real thing I could do.”

Mableton residents Jessica and Dominique Macon braved the brisk temperatures with their young son to cast their ballots at South Cobb Regional Library. Jessica said the pair wanted to exercise their right to vote and set an example for their son, who stood quietly by their side. She also said she felt her vote was secure.

“The first time around proved that,” she said, referring to the general election.

Lauren Pompilio, 19, voted for the first time this November.

The freshman at the University of South Carolina didn’t want to say who she voted for today, but said the pandemic was an important factor in her choice. She intends on going into the healthcare field, and said she’s voting because earlier leadership could have prevented deaths in the pandemic.

“We all need to vote and use our voice,” she said outside of the Oak Grove Elementary polling place.

Michael Schlact

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Michael Schlact, another Acworth resident, said it took him 45 minutes from the time he got in line to when he cast his ballot at the North Cobb Senior Center. He didn’t have any complaints about the time.

“It’s part of being an American,” he said of voting. “It’s my duty as a Georgian and an American. This is an opportunity we have and it’s and honor to do that.”

10 a.m. update

Few problems at polling places, though it’s early

By David Wickert, J.D. Capelouto and Kristal Dixon

Georgia polling places reported few problems in the first hours of voting Tuesday.

Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, reported technical problems In Columbia County, where a programming error stymied electronic voting. In a post on Twitter, Sterling said voting continued on backup emergency ballots, and new programming keys and cards were being delivered to polling place by police officers.

Elsewhere, voting appeared to be going smoothly. There was no line outside Metropolitan Library in the Capitol View Manor neighborhood in Atlanta. Turnout has been “moderate,” the poll manager said.

The manager reported no major issues – just a few voters who were at the wrong precinct.

Scott Orrell voted at the South Cobb Regional Library. He said it only took him a few minutes to cast his vote.

“It was well-managed,” he said of the process. He also said he felt his vote was secure.

8:42 a.m update

Will President Trump’s supporters turn out to vote?

By David Wickert and Carly Wanna

Some voters expressed relief that he election is finally ending. Greggory Smith, a music publisher who voted at Antioch Baptist Church in English Avenue in Atlanta, said he feels “relieved” after casting his ballot for Warnock/Ossoff.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. I don’t know what to do when I won’t see 19 [political] ads between TV shows.”

Sara Underwood, 26, said she’s “exhausted” from the last 2 months.

“I’m super excited that it’s over. I’m just really done.”

Nearly 3.1 million Georgians had already cast ballots before today. Based on their voting history, it appears that early vote may lean toward the Democratic candidates. But Republicans could make up ground with a big turnout today.

Some Republicans have expressed concern that President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated accusations of widespread voting fraud may discourage some of his supporters from voting today for fear that their vote won’t matter.

Melissa Valeriano, a nurse living in North Macon, planned to vote for Perdue and Loeffler, even though she is not sure what her vote is worth.

“I still feel like there’s a lot of irregularities,” she said, citing allegations of voting irregularities in the presidential election.

But Valeriano is dismayed with the direction of the progressive left and still convinced voting is a central tenet of democracy. She knew she had to vote.

Melissa Valeriano

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John Paul Jones Jr., 72, knew he wanted to vote early Tuesday morning.

“I’mma go on, and get it over with,” Jones said outside of Mabel White Baptist Church in Bibb County.

Just after 7:30 a.m., Jones, a Trump supporter, cast his votes for Perdue and Loeffler. The process took a little more than five minutes, and Jones is confident the elections will be safe and secure.

“Both sides make me sick” he said, citing the barrage of negative ads.

8:23 a.m. update

Voters weary after a long election season

By J.D. Capelouto

Some voters expressed relief that he election is finally ending. Greggory Smith, a music publisher who voted at Antioch Baptist Church in English Avenue in Atlanta, said he feels “relieved” after casting his ballot for Warnock/Ossoff.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. I don’t know what to do when I won’t see 19 [political] ads between TV shows.”

Gentry Mosley

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Gentry Mosley, 32, isn’t mad about all the political mailers/texts/calls. “I’m glad they’re doing it, we need to get people out there to vote. If it takes a million text messages to my phone, I’m happy.”

Sylvan Hills resident Ashley Stanford, who voted at Atlanta’s Metropolitan Library, said she got over a dozen texts yesterday reminding her to vote. She joked, “We were so excited to be a battleground state, but we didn’t know what all that entailed.”

7:50 a.m. update

Voters lined up early across metro Atlanta

By Ty Tagami and Kristal Dixon

Voters lined up outside some metro Atlanta polling places early Tuesday. It was still dark when Michael Jefferson took the first place in line to vote at the Best Friend Park Gymnasium in Gwinnett County. The Norcross Republican had to get work, but always votes and wasn’t going to skip it this time.

“I’m not going to squander my vote,” said Jefferson, 25. He voted a straight Republican ticket Tuesday “I after voting for Trump in November, and despite all the rhetoric about election fraud he said he is confident his vote will be counted. “I feel they’re going to do the best they can,” said Jefferson, who manages a skylight company.

The crowd turnout was small enough that no one had to wait outside as the sky lightened before 7:30 a.m.

Mableton residents Jessica and Dominique Macon braved the brisk temperatures with their young son to cast their ballots at South Cobb Regional Library. Jessica said the pair wanted to exercise their right to vote and set an example for their son, who stood quietly by their side. She also said she felt her vote was secure.

“The first time around proved that,” she said, referring to the general election.

About 20 people in line outside Antioch Baptist Church in English Avenue in Atlanta before the polls opened. Greggory Smith, a music publisher who lives on Marietta Street, said he feels “relieved” after casting his ballot for Warnock/Ossoff.

“Tomorrow’s a new day. I don’t know what to do when I won’t see 19 [political] ads between TV shows.”

Emily Pfaender

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Emily Pfaender, who waited outside the South Cobb library, said it’s “very important” to elect senators so “we can enact the change we need” in this country.

“I’m really tired of it,” the Mableton resident said of the political stalemate. She also said she is confident her vote will be secure, and said she was surprised at how smoothly things have gone throughout the election process.

Original post

Georgia’s long moment in the national spotlight will culminate today, when state voters determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

Georgia voters also will elect a member of the state Public Service Commission, which regulates energy and utility rates and issues.

Polling places across the state will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Voters may also return their absentee ballot in drop boxes across the state until 7 p.m. Voters should check their registration and polling place on the state’s My Voter Page before heading out to cast their ballots.

In the Senate races, incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler faces Democrat Raphael Warnock, while Republican David Perdue – whose first term in office ended Sunday – faces Democrat Jon Ossoff.

With control of the U.S. Senate at stake, the two Senate races have drawn national attention and hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign spending. On Monday both President Donald Trump and President-elect Joe Biden visited Georgia to rally their supporters to vote.

In the other race on the ballot, incumbent Republican Lauren “Bubba” McDonald faces Democrat Daniel Blackman.