11:25 p.m.

Ballots still being counted in Metro Atlanta

Fulton, Clayton, Chatham, DeKalb and Gwinnett counties all were counting absentee ballots late Wednesday. Statewide, there were about 90,000 ballots that needed to be counted, according to the secretary of state’s office.

Fulton County officials said the counting could be finalized in the early-morning hours Thursday. Follow AJC political reporter Greg Bluestein on Twitter at @bluestein for the latest updates.

8:30 p.m.

Georgia GOP, Trump file lawsuit over ballot counting

The Georgia Republican Party and President Donald Trump’s campaign filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that Chatham County is improperly counting absentee ballots received after the state’s deadline.

The petition, filed in Chatham County Superior Court, was the third filed by the Trump campaign, all in states with close races where ballots were still being counted late Wednesday.

In Georgia, Trump held a small lead over Democratic candidate Joe Biden as tens of thousands of absentee ballots remained to be counted in metro Atlanta and Savannah.

The Georgia suit addresses how absentee ballots were stored and states that ballots received after 7 p.m. Tuesday should not be counted. A poll watcher claims he saw a poll worker handling ballots incorrectly.

5:15 p.m.

About 200,000 absentee ballots still need to be counted in Georgia

By Mark Niesse and Isaac Sabetai

About 200,000 absentee ballots remained to be counted in Georgia on Wednesday afternoon, many of them concentrated in some of the state’s largest counties.

The counties with the most pending ballots were Fulton in metro Atlanta, Chatham in Savannah, and Houston south of Macon.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found the number of outstanding absentee ballots by comparing how many absentee ballots have been counted with how many absentee ballots have been returned to county election officials. These figures are publicly available from the secretary of state’s website.

4:15 p.m.

Georgia rejects few absentee ballots so far

By Mark Niesse

There have been just 1,566 absentee ballots rejected in Georgia, accounting for 0.1% of all ballots returned, according to state election data. The bulk of absentee ballot rejections are for missing or invalid signatures.

Voters have until Friday to correct problems with their absentee ballots and have them counted. Election officials are required to contact voters within one business day when absentee ballots are rejected.

The number of absentee ballot rejections is certain to grow.

All ballots returned after 7 p.m. on Tuesday will be discarded, according to a state law and recent court ruling upholding the state’s return deadline.

County election officials received and verified nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots that were returned on time.

Most of those absentee ballots have already been counted. Election officials are still tabulating over 190,000 absentee ballots, most of which were returned shortly before Election Day.

Through Tuesday, 414 absentee ballots had been rejected in Fulton County, 222 in Cobb County and 202 in DeKalb County. Many counties, including Gwinnett, haven’t reported much rejection data yet.

2:25 p.m.

Georgia law allows time to count ballots

By Mark Niesse

Poll workers have time to finish Georgia’s vote count before the state’s deadlines.

While many want quick results, they’ll have to wait on county election officials.

Georgia law gives counties until next Friday, Nov. 13, to finalize and certify their election results.

Until then, election officials can continue counting absentee ballots received before the state’s 7 p.m. Election Day deadline.

In addition, voters have until this Friday to correct problems with absentee or provisional ballots, such as mismatched signatures or voter registration issues. Election officials will also conduct recounts when required, double-check vote counts and conduct the first audit of results in a statewide race. The race to be audited hasn’t yet been announced by the secretary of state’s office.

Even after next week, the count still isn’t finished.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has until Nov. 20 to certify results.

Then runoffs, if necessary, in state races will be held Dec. 1.

The Electoral College will meet Dec. 14 to cast votes for president.

A runoff for U.S. Senate between Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock is scheduled for Jan. 5.

Lucy McBath

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2:15 p.m.

McBath speaks after 6th District victory

U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath issued a video statement Wednesday following her election victory over Republican Karen Handel in the 6th Congressional District. You can watch the statement here: https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=2663069033955696

Handel issued her own statement: “Although votes are still being counted here in GA-6, the margin for me appears to be too big to close. Last night was another tough night for Republicans in Georgia’s suburbs, but there were some bright spots across the country with Republicans picking up a few seats in the U.S. House.”

1:25 p.m.

Election officials rush to finish Georgia’s count

By Mark Niesse, Tyler Estep, Meris Lutz and Ben Brasch

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger pushed local election officials to finish counting as many absentee ballots as they can Wednesday to try to settle close races.

Over 200,000 absentee ballots were still left to be counted early Wednesday afternoon, many of them in the metro Atlanta area. President Donald Trump held an 81,000-vote lead over Joe Biden in Georgia.

“My team sent reminders to counties, to get all, I repeat, all of our results counted today. Every legal vote will count,” Raffensperger said.

With so many outstanding ballots, it’s unclear whether county elections offices will be able to fulfill Raffensperger’s request.

Counties have until Nov. 13 to finalize their vote counts, according to state law. It’s not unusual for vote counting to take several days.

But Raffensperger said he wants the count done quickly.

“We’re pushing really hard for that,” he said. “If we don’t get it but we get the numbers so small that then there’s no question of who actually the winner is, that will be helpful to remove a lot of those questions that people have.”

There were about 67,000 outstanding absentee ballots in Fulton County and 46,000 in DeKalb County, according to state election data.

Fulton County spokeswoman Jessica Corbitt said that, 74,000 absentee ballots were tabulated and included in reported results last night. There are about 42,400 to be opened, scanned and adjudicated Wednesday. About 25,000 ballots have been scanned and are awaiting adjudication, which will begin at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Fulton, which covers most of the city of Atlanta, was trying to catch up on a backlog after a pipe burst in an absentee ballot processing room Tuesday. No ballots were damaged.

DeKalb County’s elections office “anticipates that all remaining absentee ballots will be processed today,” according to a statement from the county.

In Gwinnett County, which had at least 6,300 absentee ballots left to be counted, election officials were trying to overcome a problem with some ballots that wouldn’t scan properly.

About 16,000 ballots were pending in Cobb.

In all across Georgia, 208,450 absentee ballots that had been returned before Tuesday’s deadline hadn’t yet been counted, according to election data.

12:50 p.m.

Close races getting closer

Close presidential and U.S. Senate races continue to get closer as Georgia election results trickle in.

Results released by the Secretary of State’s Office before 1 p.m. show President Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden has fallen to about 86,000 votes. That’s down from about 102,000 votes earlier in the morning.

Sen. David Perdue’s lead over Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff has fallen to about 172,000 votes from a 186,000-vote margin earlier.

There are still tens of thousands of votes to count, most in Fulton and DeKalb counties. The counties have said they expect most or all of those votes to be counted by tonight.

11:46 a.m.

How things stand in Georgia

- Hundreds of thousands of absentee ballots have not been counted, primarily in Fulton and DeKalb County.

- It’s unclear when the count will be completed. Often, it takes several days. However, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said this morning he believes most of the counting will be finished today.

In a press release, DeKalb County said it “anticipates that all remaining absentee ballots will be processed today.” The county has about 48,000 outstanding absentee ballots. Fulton County expects to have another 60,000 absentee ballots counted by 9 p.m.

- Key races with national implications remain too close to call. President Donald Trump leads Joe Biden by about 100,000 votes. Sen. David Perdue leads Jon Ossoff by about 185,000 votes.

- Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux has claimed victory in the 7th Congressional District, but there are still votes to counted and Republican Rich McCormick has not conceded the race.

- In Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is headed to a January runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

10:18 a.m.

Absentee ballots leave Georgia election results up in the air

By Greg Bluestein

Why is Georgia still up in the air? According to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis, there are at least 236,000 absentee ballots that still haven’t been tallied.

Many of those ballots come from Democratic-leaning counties, including at least 63,000 in Fulton and another 46,000 in DeKalb. There are also 20,000 ballots outstanding in Republican-leaning Houston County.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger expects much of that total to be tallied later today. And Joe Biden would have to win about 72% of those ballots to overtake President Donald Trump, although that percentage drops if even more absentee ballots that arrived before Tuesday’s deadline are added to the total..

10:05 a.m.

Bourdeaux confident of 7th Congressional District victory

By Amanda Coyne

Carolyn Bourdeaux was much more certain about her election outcome Wednesday morning than she was in 2018.

In her first race, it took weeks of demanding more absentee ballots be counted before Bourdeaux, a Democrat, conceded a 433-vote defeat to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall. This year, before all of Gwinnett’s votes were counted and before any media organization called the 7th Congressional District race, Bourdeaux believed the win over Republican candidate Rich McCormick was in her column.

“The 7th Congressional District is ready for change,” Bourdeaux said in a Wednesday morning Facebook Live address. “I am here to be an advocate on behalf of the people of this district.”

If she is officially the winner, Bourdeaux will be the first Democrat to represent the once solidly Republican district since U.S. Rep. Buddy Darden, who lost the seat in 1994. Before 2018, incumbent Woodall had won each election by 20 points or more. He announced he would not run for re-election in 2020 shortly after his narrow 2018 win. Bourdeaux would also be the first woman to represent the district.

As of 9 a.m., Bourdeaux had 51.15% of all votes counted, a lead of 8,305 votes. Forsyth County, the southern tip of which is in the 7th District, has fully reported its results. Gwinnett County, the bulk of which is contained in the 7th, has not. Gwinnett election officials paused their count shortly before 2 a.m. Wednesday with 4,400 absentee ballots and 500 provisional ballots left to count. The county also has to recount four days worth of early voting ballots from one early voting precinct scanner that had a corrupt card, and adjudicate 3,200 batches of absentee ballots in which at least one is unreadable. That is likely between 80,000 and 160,000, according to the elections office.

Bourdeaux’s confidence comes in part to the heavy Democratic tilt in Gwinnett, where votes are still left to be counted. As of 9 a.m., Bourdeaux is ahead of McCormick by 13.06 percentage points – 35,934 votes – in Gwinnett, compared to a 2.3% lead over McCormick in the district overall.

Bourdeaux declared victory around 2 a.m. Wednesday. After the polls closed Tuesday evening, she wouldn’t say whether she expected to know her fate sooner rather than later.

“We in Georgia are used to waiting,” she said. “We know how to be patient.”

9:10 a.m.

New results show shrinking margins in key races

Fresh election results show key races continue to tighten in Georgia.

Results released by the Secretary of State’s Office shortly before 9 a.m. show President Donald Trump’s lead over Joe Biden has shrunk to about 102,000 votes. So, too, has incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue’s lead over Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. Perdue led by about 186,000 votes.

Hundreds of thousands of ballots remain to be counted in key counties, including Fulton, DeKalb and Gwinnett.

8:55 a.m.

Raffensperger expects to finish Georgia vote count today

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger expects to wrap up Georgia vote counting today.

The secretary told Good Morning America this morning that despite some counting problems in Fulton County and elsewhere, Georgia had a successful election. He said voters can be confident “the count is secure.”

“We’re working hard on that,” Raffensperger said of the ongoing count. "By mid-day, we should be pretty much through it. Probably by the end of the day, we’ll definitely have it done.

“We had a very successful election,” he said. “Over 4.8 million Georgians voted, which is also a record for a presidential election.”

Raffensperger has scheduled an 11:30 a.m. press conference at the Georgia State Capitol.

7:10 a.m.

More results due from key metro Atlanta counties

Hundreds of thousands of votes remain to be counted. Key races with national implications are too close to call.

That’s the state of elections in Georgia this morning. You’ll find more details below. But in the hours ahead, watch for more election results from key metro Atlanta counties, including Fulton, Gwinnett and DeKalb.

There are at least 239,000 absentee ballots that have been returned to counties that haven’t yet been counted. We’ll post updated results here as we get them.

Also today: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will hold a press conference this morning to discuss voting problems and other issues.

3 a.m.

Key races up in the air

The race for president in Georgia tightened early Wednesday as metro Atlanta returns trickled in, though it could take days to get the full picture because of vote counting problems in Fulton and Gwinnett counties.

That didn’t stop President Donald Trump from declaring a “clear” victory in Georgia, despite the race being unsettled in many left-leaning areas.

Earlier in the evening, Georgia Republicans began to rally around U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler after she edged out Congressman Doug Collins for a spot in a Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock. Collins conceded the race and pledged full support to his once-bitter rival.

Georgia’s other marquee races also hung in the balance as dozens of Democratic-leaning precincts surrounding Atlanta had yet to report. That included U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s reelection battle against Democrat Jon Ossoff, as well as a U.S. House contest that was seen as bellwether for Vice President Joe Biden’s strength in the suburbs.

Early Wednesday, multiple news outlets declared U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, the winner of a rematch against former Congresswoman Karen Handel in the suburban 6th U.S. House District. And Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux declared victory in the neighboring 7th District, though no major news outlets had called the race.

Other developments:

  • Former Vice President Joe Biden expressed pleasant surprise that Georgia was in play for his campaign, saying early Wednesday that “we’re still in the game in Georgia although that’s not one we expected"
  • There was some confusion surrounding the 7th Congressional District race early Wednesday. The diverse suburban district, based in Gwinnett and Forsyth counties, was home to the tightest congressional race in the nation two years ago and too close to call all evening. But Bourdeaux declared victory over Republican Rich McCormick shortly after 2:30 a.m., though no news outlets had weighed in on the race. The McCormick camp said it will weigh its options until all ballots are counted.
  • Republicans declared victory over their top statehouse target, House Minority Leader Bob Trammell, the last remaining rural white Democrat in the chamber
  • Georgia is poised to send a record number of women to Congress
  • Voters in Brunswick ousted Jackie Johnson, the district attorney who initially headed up the Ahmaud Arbery investigation

Track election returns here, and follow our live updates below:

2:45 a.m.

Bourdeaux declares victory in 7th District, despite no news orgs calling race

Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux said she won the 7th District congressional race, but major news outlets have yet to call the razor-thin Gwinnett and Forsyth contest.

“It is the honor of a lifetime to be your Congresswoman-elect, and I will carry your stories and experiences with me every day as we work together to build a brighter future for our children," Bourdeaux said in an early Wednesday statement. Shortly after, House Democrats' campaign committee fired off a press release congratulating the policy professor on her win.

The campaign of Republican Rich McCormick said it had “not received an unofficial total, let alone a certified vote total. We will continue to weigh our options until all ballots are counted.”

2:40 a.m.

More than 8,000 ballots outstanding in Gwinnett

By Arielle Kass

Gwinnett County spokesperson Joe Sorenson said no more vote counting will happen tonight, even though more than 8,000 ballots are outstanding.

Gwinnett still has to count 4,400 absentee-by-mail ballots that arrived Tuesday, along with about 500 provisional ballots. Additionally, poll workers on Wednesday must re-scan the advance-in-person ballots that were loaded on to a corrupt card. Sorenson said he didn’t know how many ballots that is, but the scanner, from Shorty Howell Park, had four days worth of ballots that were uploaded from the beginning of the early voting period.

The county must also adjudicate a number of absentee ballots that have issues. There are 3,200 batches of absentee ballots; each batch contains somewhere between 25 and 50 ballots. At least one ballot in each batch had votes that couldn’t be read. The county uploaded the batches with the knowledge that they’d have to go back through and find the ballots that didn’t scan to determine whether the votes could be read. That process will begin Wednesday.

2:30 a.m.

Trump declares victory in Georgia, but results far from settled

President Donald Trump declared victory in Georgia early Wednesday during a televised address in which he also vowed to fight at the Supreme Court.

Trump said it was “clear” he won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes, but the race is still far from settled here. The heavily Democratic Fulton County is still tabulating its results, as are precincts in Gwinnett and Cobb counties.

1:45 a.m.

News outlets call 6th District race for McBath

The Associated Press and The New York Times are projecting that Marietta Democrat Lucy McBath will return to Washington next year for a second term in the U.S. House.

McBath faced a rematch against former Congresswoman Karen Handel, whom she narrowly ousted in 2018. Unofficial returns suggest McBath was able to build on her support from the midterms.

Three years ago, the Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb-based 6th District was host to most expensive congressional race in the nation. That’s when Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, was able to best then-Democratic newcomer Jon Ossoff in a race that was seen as a proxy fight over President Donald Trump.

1:35 a.m.

GOP faithful rally around Trump at Buckhead watch party

The crowd cheered each time President Donald Trump carried a state, no matter how trivial. They booed when Joe Biden appeared to flip Arizona. And they left home empty-handed as the White House race remained up for grabs early Wednesday morning.

Hundreds of Republicans packed a ballroom at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead for the Georgia GOP event. The main attraction was supposed to be U.S. Sen. David Perdue but he never showed. Though he had an edge over Jon Ossoff, heavily-Democratic counties still hadn’t fully reported.

1:25 a.m.

Tens of thousands of votes yet to be counted in DeKalb

By Tyler Estep

Early Wednesday, DeKalb County posted results for about 164,000 advance votes. That brought the county’s total counted votes to just over 322,000, with tens of thousands of absentee by mail ballots yet to be counted. Officials said they would resume counting those ballots at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

The latest DeKalb results were a boon to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, who has taken more than 82% of the county’s votes thus far.

1:15 a.m.

DA who headed Ahmaud Arbery investigation ousted

Voters in Brunswick appeared to oust Jackie Johnson, the district attorney who initially headed up the Ahmaud Arbery investigation.

Unofficial returns early Wednesday showed Keith Higgins running ahead of Johnson by several thousand votes.

This spring, Johnson was accused of mishandling the case surrounding Arbery, a Black man who was shot to death in February while jogging by several white men. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to probe the actions of Johnson and another district attorney who for months didn’t make arrests in the case.

Read more here.

12:35 a.m.

Associated Press: Williams, Johnson heading to Congress

No surprise here, but the Associated Press is projecting that Democrat Nikema Williams won the 5th District congressional seat once held by the late John Lewis. The news outlet also confirmed that U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, will be returning to Congress for an eighth term.

The only U.S. House races we’re still waiting on are the suburban 6th and 7th districts.

12:25 a.m.

Metro Atlanta counties struggling to count absentee ballots

By Ben Brasch and Arielle Kass

The most populous counties in the state, on the biggest stage imaginable, are having trouble counting their absentee ballots.

As of press time, neither Fulton nor Gwinnett counties had finished tallying their early and Election Day results.

The counties, home to nearly one out of every five Georgians, had separate issues with their mail-in voting systems.

Tuesday’s tallying issues meant there was no clear call in the state for the presidential contest and for key congressional races with consequences that could ripple across the nation.

Read the story here.

12:05 a.m.

Republicans declare victory over state House minority leader

GOP groups declared victory early Wednesday over House Minority Leader Bob Trammell. The Luthersville Democrat was on the receiving end of more than $1 million worth of Republican attacks this cycle, a once unheard of sum for a statehouse race.

“We couldn’t be more excited to send Bob Trammell packin' and replace him with an upgrade,” said Austin Chambers, president of the Washington-based Republican State Leadership Committee, which spent heavily in the race. “Republican David Jenkins will serve his district with the utmost integrity and attention to the needs of his community.”

Trammell’s defeat is big symbolic one for the GOP. Not only is he the leader of the House Democratic caucus, but the last remaining rural white Democrat in the chamber.

Earlier Tuesday, Trammell was feeling bullish, sending Chambers a case of Budweiser signed by “Golden Boy Bob Trammell.”

“Election night can be long,” Trammell wrote in an accompanying note. “Don’t want you to be caught too empty handed.”

So it must have stung when Chambers tweeted this reply, with election returns in the background, late Tuesday: “This bud is for you, Golden Boy."

11:55 p.m.

Lieberman concedes Senate race, endorses Warnock

By Patricia Murphy

Democrat Matt Lieberman conceded in Georgia’s U.S. Senate special election and offered his endorsement to Rev. Raphael Warnock late Tuesday, the AJC has learned.

Lieberman, the son of former vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, had been under intense pressure to drop out of the race from Democratic leaders, who worried he would siphon support from Warnock. He stayed in the contest but won only marginal support. In fact, former Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson, who cruised under the radar for much of the race, was polling higher than Lieberman in unofficial returns.

11:45 p.m.

Loeffler calls for unity, thanks Collins for service

By Patricia Murphy

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler thanked her supporters late Tuesday and called for Republican unity after early election results showed her advancing to a Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock.

“I am so humbled. I am blown away to be honest," Loeffler told supporters at her election night watch party in Buckhead.

Loeffler, who was appointed to the Senate seat by Gov. Brian Kemp late last year, also thanked her archrival, Republican Congressman Doug Collins, who called her earlier this evening to offer his support. The two fought bitterly for conservative support for much of the year, dividing the state’s GOP leaders in the process.

“He’s a strong conservative, he supports our president, he supported our country, loves his family," she said of Collins. "He’s a man of faith, and I am honored to have him on our team.”

11:30 p.m.

White House, Perdue-Ossoff races too close to call

By Greg Bluestein

The race for president and other top contests in Georgia are still too close to call after a record number of voters surged to the polls to render a verdict on President Donald Trump’s four years in the White House and decide a U.S. Senate race that could determine control of the chamber.

Joe Biden’s late push to win Georgia for Democrats for the first time since 1992 hung in the balance as voters weighed a race for president doubling as a referendum on Trump’s handling of a coronavirus pandemic that’s upended every facet of American life.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler edged fellow Republican Rep. Doug Collins to score a spot in a Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock. But Georgia’s other statewide race, between U.S. Sen. David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff, was still unsettled.

Read the whole story here.

11:20 p.m.

Ballot counting issue in Gwinnett likely to slow results

Our colleague Arielle Kass is reporting that Gwinnett is experiencing a tallying issue that’s affecting at least 80,000 absentee-by-mail ballots, which will likely delay the reporting of election returns in the majority-minority county.

Gwinnett is home to the 7th Congressional District, one of the most competitive U.S. House races in the country, and Democrats Joe Biden and Jon Ossoff are also banking on strong showings there.

11:05 p.m.

Warnock: ‘Something special and transformational is happening’

By Tia Mitchell

Rev. Raphael Warnock gave what amounted to a victory speech late Tuesday as early returns showed him leading the field in the crowded contest to fill the remainder of Johnny Isakson’s U.S. Senate term.

Flanked by members of his family who held signs that said “Thank you, Georgia” and “See you on 1/5/21, the Democrat declared “something special and transformational is happening right here in Georgia.”

“The people – everyday people, ordinary people – are rising up, and they are demanding change," said the first-time candidate and pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church.

Warnock then spoke about his policy platform and growing up in a Savannah housing project with working-class parents and 11 siblings. He vowed to stay “busy trying to lift the families of Georgia up” even his expected opponent in the Jan. 5 runoff, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, will “try to tear me down" over the next nine weeks.

11/03/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Raphael Warnock, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, makes remarks at his headquarters on Election Day in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn District, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Warnock is expected to advance to a run-off election in January against a Republican opponent. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

11:00 p.m.

Nikema Williams: ‘I feel confident in the work that I have done’

By Ernie Suggs

It wasn’t exactly a surprise, but state Sen. Nikema Williams easily dispatched Republican Angela Stanton King in the race for the 5th Congressional District seat once held by the late civil rights legend John Lewis.

Although the win in the heavily Democratic district has been a forgone conclusion for months and even after several media outlets declared her the winner, Williams was still reluctant to declare victory until all of the votes had been counted.

She said she has a firm rule to wait “until the race is officially called.”

So instead Williams gave what was close to a victory speech to a small group of family and supporters at a downtown office complex.

“Even though we don’t have results yet, I feel confident in the work that I have done in the community, the people that I represented here, the work that you have all done to make sure that our voices were heard in the ballot box, that whenever every vote is finally counted in the 5th congressional district, I will be your congresswoman-elect,” Williams said. “I am so proud to be able to stand here and live up to the legacy of John Lewis. Picking up the torch and moving forward with the work that I know he left us to do.”

10:50 p.m.

Three more U.S. House incumbents reelected

News outlets have projected victories for three more U.S. House incumbents: Democrat David Scott of Atlanta and Republicans Rick Allen of Evans and Barry Loudermilk of Cassville.

The races we’re still waiting to hear from are all in metro Atlanta: the 4th (U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson v. Johsie Ezammudeen), 6th (U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath v. Karen Handel) and 7th districts (Carolyn Bourdeaux v. Rich McCormick).

U.S. Rep. David Scott faces three challengers in the 2020 Democratic primary for his 13th Congressional District seat. He is pictured here during a visit to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in 2013. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

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10:40 p.m.

Collins endorses Loeffler

GOP Congressman Doug Collins said he called U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler to offer his endorsement after early returns showed her edging him out for the second seat in a Jan. 5 runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock in the special election to fill Johnny Isakson’s U.S. Senate seat.

The two Republicans waged a bitter battle against one another for the better part of a year that split the state GOP.

Collins' tweet came shortly after the music at his Lake Lanier watch party was abruptly cut, our colleague Maya T. Prabhu reports. He will not be making remarks, his team said.

10:35 p.m.

Why GOP activists are antsy despite promising early returns

By Greg Bluestein

President Donald Trump and other Republicans are building hefty leads in early returns, but GOP activists are still antsy. Why? Some of the state’s biggest Democratic strongholds are only just beginning to report results of the election. Hardly any results have been reported in DeKalb, the most important Democratic stronghold. And a slew of precincts are out in Cobb, Fulton and Gwinnett counties - as well as smaller Democratic-leaning cities.

10:00 p.m.

Split-ticket voting aiding Perdue

By Greg Bluestein

Apparently, there are a fair number of Joe Biden-David Perdue voters. The incumbent Republican senator is outperforming Trump by about 250,000 votes, building himself a decent cushion for when Democratic strongholds of DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett chime in.

Senator David Perdue holds a rally at Peachtree DeKalb Airport with SC Senator Tim Scott and meets some of his supporters Monday, Nov 2, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

9:50 p.m.

Incumbents reelected to Congress, along with two female newcomers

Georgia will be sending two new women to Congress, according to various media projections: Democrat Nikema Williams in the 5th Congressional District and Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene in the 14th. That ensures the state will have a record number of women serving in Congress in 2021. (Georgia has never had more than one woman serve at one time in the U.S. House.)

Gun store owner Andrew Clyde defeated Democrat Devin Pandy in the 9th Congressional District, succeeding U.S. Rep. Doug Collins.

Several incumbent U.S. House members were also reelected to their posts. Among those returning to Congress: Democrat Sanford Bishop of Albany and Republicans Buddy Carter of Pooler, Drew Ferguson of West Point, Austin Scott of Tifton and Jody Hice of Monroe.

9:40 p.m.

Two trends worth watching in the special election

By Greg Bluestein

Two interesting trends have emerged so far in the special election for U.S. Senate.

The first is U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has built a formidable advantage over fellow Republican U.S. Rep. Doug Collins – even as his northeast Georgia territory starts coming in.

The second is that for all the Democratic hand-wringing over the threat that Matt Lieberman and Ed Tarver posed to frontrunner Raphael Warnock. But it’s former Lithonia Mayor Deborah Jackson who is far exceeding both of their margins, hovering around 5% of the vote.

9:20 p.m.

Nikema Williams reflects on ‘magnitude of this moment’

By Ernie Suggs

Nikema Williams walked into her election watch party Tuesday evening looking like a politician: A red dress, a blue mask and a string of white pearls. But she also wore what has become the latest political accessory – Chuck Taylor Converse shoes.

Red and white, with blue stars to make out the American flag, the Converse trend is a direct shout out to Vice Presidential Candidate Kamala Harris.

Harris has made a fashion statement by showing up to political rallies in the old school basketball shoes. It has caught on, as hundreds of voters, mostly women, have adopted the shoe and posted pictures of themselves voting in them.

Williams calls them her “Battleground Georgia shoes,” and said her first motivation is actually comfort.

Williams, who’s running to succeed the late civil rights hero John Lewis in the 5th Congressional District, said she’s been “thinking about the magnitude of this moment all day.”

With her son Carter at her side, Williams said: “I literally grew up in a home in rural Alabama with no heat or plumbing or running water and I never imagined this life for me.”

Williams, a state senator who chairs the Democratic Party of Georgia, is expected to easily defeat Republican challenger Angela Stanton King, a convicted felon and political neophyte who was thrust into the political spotlight after getting a pardon by President Donald Trump.

Democratic Georgia Congressional candidate Nikema Williams participates in a campaign event in Jonesboro, Georgia, USA, 27 October 2020. ERIK LESSER / EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Credit: EPA

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Credit: EPA

9:15 p.m.

Marjorie Taylor Greene takes victory lap

It may be a while until Georgia’s most competitive U.S. House races are called, but we know of at least one newcomer who will be headed to Congress. Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene celebrated her 14th Congressional District win on Tuesday by snapping a photo with her family:

Greene’s victory, of course, come as no surprise. The first-time candidate’s Democratic opponent abruptly bowed out of the race in September, and even if Kevin Van Ausdal had stuck around he would have faced an uphill battle in one of the most conservative congressional districts east of the Mississippi.

Greene, a business-owner who moved to northwest Georgia to run for the seat, is a controversial figure who has spread baseless QAnon conspiracy theories, posted racist and xenophobic videos on social media, and called U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “bitch.”

Greene is the first woman to be sent to Congress from the 14th District. Not only that, but she could help ensure record female representation for Georgia’s congressional delegation. There has never been more than one Georgia congresswoman serving in the U.S. House at one time, and between U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath and her opponent Karen Handel, 5th District candidate Nikema Williams and 7th District hopeful Carolyn Bourdeaux, it’s possible there could be up to four Georgia women serving in the lower chamber next year. (Not to mention Kelly Loeffler in the Senate, if she’s reelected.)

8:40 p.m.

Crowd gathers at Loeffler party

By Patricia Murphy

At the Kelly Loeffler event in Buckhead, a crowd in suits and cocktail dresses mixed with a Christian volunteer youth group that had volunteered for the Georgia U.S. senator this week. A massive screen with Fox News kept Loeffler’s supporters up to date on the latest returns, even as it looked like a long night ahead.

Margaret Williamson came from Ellijay to support Loeffler and paired a peacock blue fascinator with a flowing, ankle length dress for the event at the swanky Grand Hyatt hotel. Although Doug Collins is Williamson' congressman, she’s supporting Loeffler instead.

“She’s an intelligent lady and a businesswoman,” Williamson said. “I’m a big Trump supporter and she is 100% Trump.”

A campaign sign is seen before a watch party at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on Election Night, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Kennesaw, Ga. Branden Camp for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Branden Camp

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Credit: Branden Camp

8:30 p.m.

Warnock rallies staff

By Tia Mitchell

Rev. Raphael Warnock chose not to host a traditional Election Night party, and instead will address select members of the media, staff and immediate family later tonight at his campaign headquarters in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. The Democrat’s pulpit at Ebenezer Baptist Church is just a block away. The Senate hopeful’s campaign also rented out a nearby beer hall for a private event for campaign staff and volunteers.

Warnock briefly addressed his team when he arrived at his office around 8:30 p.m. Tuesday. “This has been a wonderful journey, and we have offered our message to the voters of Georgia,” he said. “This team has been amazing in helping us get our message out. So now the rest is up to the voters.”

8:15 p.m.

Collins braces supporters for late night

By Maya T. Prabhu

U.S. Senate candidate Doug Collins briefly popped into the ballroom at the Legacy Lodge and Convention Center at Lake Lanier Islands Resort to greet supporters who had begun to gather for his election watch party.

“All right, folks, hang in there,” he said before ducking out of the ballroom, telling the crowd to prepare for a long night.

Hoschton resident Jennifer Stancill said she’s known the congressman personally since 2013, but said her decision to support the Gainesville Republican was also about experience.

“I don’t know (Loeffler and Warnock), but I’m sure they’re nice people,” she said. “I just don’t believe that either of them have the experience in public service that he has because neither of them have ever held public office before. I’m not saying they can’t, and they shouldn’t. I just don’t think they can be as effective at the job at this stage of the game.”

Stancill and her husband were among about 75 people, almost all of whom were not wearing masks, awaiting results at the event while listening to a soundtrack of classic rock and Motown.

7:50 p.m.

COVID, fractured Senate field shake up campaign watch parties

Election night watch parties are a time-honored tradition for federal, state and local candidates alike. But, like seemingly everything else, 2020 has drastically remade what such gatherings look like.

Many Democrats are skipping public parties entirely due to the pandemic. That includes U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff and Congresswoman Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, who both have virtual addresses planned.

State Sen. Nikema Williams, who’s on the ballot to replace the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis, is hosting a small event near the Georgia Capitol, while U.S. Senate hopeful Rev. Raphael Warnock plans to speak with a small group of reporters at his Sweet Auburn campaign headquarters later tonight but isn’t hosting any supporters.

Republicans are holding in-person events but face their own wrinkle: mainly, that the party can’t unite because of the bitter special election that has U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler facing off against Congressman Doug Collins.

Collins is hosting a watch party at Lake Lanier Islands Resort near Buford. Loeffler’s fete is at the Grand Hyatt in Buckhead, which is right across the street from the Intercontinental, where U.S. Sen. David Perdue, former Congresswoman Karen Handel and other Republican officials are congregating. Incumbents typically party together on election night, but the special has created an awkward dynamic.

7:30 p.m.

Bourdeaux: Dems ‘on the brink’ of flipping Georgia

By Amanda C. Coyne

Carolyn Bourdeaux held her cards close to her chest as polls closed Tuesday. The Democratic candidate for Georgia’s 7th Congressional District stopped short of making predictions, but said her district will be key in pushing Georgia from red to blue.

“We are on the brink of putting Georgia over the line,” she said at a press conference outside her Suwanee campaign office.

The 7th District spans most of Gwinnett County and part of southern Forsyth County. Both the district and Gwinnett passed their 2016 turnout totals with absentee and early voting alone, and few long lines or major polling place issues were reported Tuesday.

“Even if we have a relatively light turnout today, we could easily pass 70%,” said Bourdeaux, who came within about 500 votes of winning the 7th District two years ago.

With so many absentee ballots in the mix — more than 115,000 in Gwinnett — Bourdeaux wouldn’t say whether she expects to learn her fate tonight.

“We in Georgia are used to waiting,” she said. “We know how to be patient.”

11/02/2020 —  Atlanta, Georgia — Carolyn Bourdeaux, Democratic candidate for Georgia's 7th Congressional District, speaks during a Biden-Harris rally in Atlanta’s Summerhill community ,Monday, November 2, 2020. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

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Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

7:20 p.m.

Pipe burst delays ballot counting in Fulton

Our colleague Ben Brasch is reporting there will be likely be substantial reporting delays in Fulton County after a water pipe burst today at State Farm Arena.

Voting officials told the local elections board that no absentee ballots were harmed due to the slant of the room, but the accident will likely delay the county’s goal of having a three-quarters count by 11 p.m.

Elections board member Mark Wingate said he believes the county won’t have results until Friday. Fulton has so far scanned 86,191 of the 130,517 absentee-by-mail ballots received, which doesn’t include the ballots received in today’s mail, according to Brasch.

On the suite level at State Farm Arena, Fulton County election officials work to count absentee ballots on Monday, November 2, 2020.  The process includes machines that cut open the envelopes, people who sort the paperwork, scanning stations where the data is collected and boxing of the recorded ballots for transport to English Avenue where Fulton County's official count is assessed.  The physical ballots and the scanned date will be transported on Tuesday after all absentee ballots are counted.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

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Credit: Jenni Girtman

7:00 p.m.

Polls closed

Most voting sites are now closed, save for a few precincts that have been ordered to stay open later to make up for delays earlier in the day.

One notable exception: Spalding County. Our colleague Alexis Stevens reports that all 18 precincts there will remain open until 9 p.m. after the county experienced technical issues and provisional ballots were delivered.

6:50 p.m.

How the AJC will report election results

With a record number of votes cast this year - including nearly 1.3 million absentee ballots - state elections officials and independent observers have raised the possibility of delays in processing and reporting election results.

As a result, the AJC will likely be slower to declare winners, according to politics editor Susan Potter. During the primary, which also had a record number of Georgians voting by mail, the final outcome of several close races did not become clear for days.

Here’s more from Susan:

We will review calls made by The Associated Press and the national networks before sharing them with our readers.

You may notice that our election results pages no longer include “precincts counted.” With the high number of absentee ballots expected this year, the number of precincts counted no longer accurately represents how many votes have actually been counted.

6:30 p.m.

Some last-minute reading

We’re a half-hour away from (most) polls closing. If you’re looking for more background on what to expect tonight and the days that follow, take a look at some of the AJC’s recent coverage here:

And here’s something else to ponder as we wait for returns:

6:00 p.m.

AP releases early survey of Georgia voters

It isn’t an exit poll, but the Associated Press just released some initial data about the Georgia electorate, including some numbers that may please local Democrats:

  • 60% of the voters surveyed in Georgia believe the country is moving in the wrong direction
  • 49% believe the coronavirus pandemic is “not at all under control”
  • 56% say the economy is “not so good” or poor"

All point to a Georgia electorate that’s dissatisfied with the status quo under Trump, although it’s important to take such surveys with a grain of salt. Nearly half of survey’s Georgia respondents, for example, were suburbanites, which is higher than that group’s share of the electorate here.

One other notable number: 31% of Georgia respondents were Black. If that’s ultimately reflective of turnout in this race, that’s great news for Democrats. As we mentioned earlier this afternoon, they’re aiming for Black turnout to meet or surpass 30% of the overall electorate.

The numbers come from AP VoteCast, an expansive survey of approximately 140,000 voters nationwide pulled from a “combination of mail, phone and online research to meet voters where they are — increasingly, that’s casting a ballot before Election Day by mail, absentee or in-person early voting.” The survey was conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago for The Associated Press and Fox News.

You can peruse results from Georgia and other states below:

5:30 p.m.

Counties to watch tonight

By Greg Bluestein

Here’s a closer look at the counties to keep an eye on as election returns roll in:

DeKalb County: It’s the most important Democratic stronghold in the state and the biggest trove of Black voters. There’s also anecdotal evidence from local officials that an expected surge of voters didn’t materialize at the polls, though that might be because of the crush of early-voters. Democrats will easily carry DeKalb – Stacey Abrams captured 83% of its vote in 2018 – but the party is counting on surpassing that margin.

Hall County: Not only is the north Georgia county one of the biggest Republican bastions in the state, it will also help decide the chaotic 20-person special election for the U.S. Senate. High turnout in Hall could help U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a native son who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the free-for-all race.

Floyd County: Some Republican operatives believe that whichever GOP candidate for U.S. Senate wins the 14th District will win a spot in January runoff. And Floyd County is at the core of the deeply-conservative district. It’s also where President Donald Trump staged a massive rally Sunday to drive out more turnout, since the area was lagging behind some Democratic-leaning territory.

Gwinnett County: Democrats have a magic number they’re targeting in the suburban county: 60%. That’s the vote-share they’re hoping to reach in a county once so solidly Republican that Democrats didn’t bother running in some local races. Vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris made a bee-line for Gwinnett over the weekend, and Senate Democratic candidates have staged multiple rallies across the county. If Democrats flirt with that total, Joe Biden could be in for a solid night.

Forsyth and Cherokee counties: The exurban Atlanta counties are key to Republican efforts to offset Democratic gains in the suburbs. While Trump will win rural Georgia areas by staggering margins, Forsyth and Cherokee are densely-populated counties where Republicans can help build a buffer. Forsyth will play a particularly important role, since half the county is in the hotly-competitive 7th Congressional District, which Democrats have eyed as a top target to flip.

Peach County: The middle Georgia county is one of the state’s few bellwethers. The county’s voters have picked the eventual presidential winner in just about every election since 1992, swinging from Barack Obama to Trump in the past two races. The exception was 2000, when Al Gore captured Peach County by a scant 15 ballots, mirroring the razor-thin national vote.

October 14, 2020 Fort Valley - Drone photography shows downtown Fort Vally in Peach County on Wednesday, October 14, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

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Credit: Hyosub Shin/AJC

5:15 p.m.

Legal challenges still possible

The record number of early and absentee voting prevented the need for much legal wrangling today over long lines and precinct closing times, but that doesn’t mean the threat of court battles is over.

Political parties, campaigns and voting rights groups say they’re ready to go to court in the coming days over election results and the counting of absentee and provisional ballots if they need to. The Trump and Biden campaigns have lined up attorneys in the state, and the American Civil Liberties Union, Fair Fight Action and other organizations are ready to respond to lawsuits.

We haven’t heard of any major legal action yet aside from emergency action to keep a few precincts open late, but that could change quickly if races are close. Gwinnett County, for example, was at the center of a legal fight in 2018 after election officials there rejected a relatively large number of mail-in ballots.

Since the 2018 elections, state officials have updated many of the rules governing the elections system, debuting new voting machines, simplifying absentee ballots and increasing the threshold to trigger recounts.

Still, the secretary of state’s office is bracing for legal battles that could prevent some races from being called.

“When we have a close election like this, in what is now viewed as a swing state, there’s going to be challenges,” said Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting system manager, said Monday.

Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, told me yesterday her group has prepared litigation materials for roughly a dozen election-related scenarios. One of her top concerns: making sure the record number of absentee ballots cast this year are counted.

5:00 p.m.

Relatively quiet day at the polls

In case you’re just tuning in, voting has largely gone smoothly today in Georgia. Aside from a few scattered issues in places like Tybee Island, Spalding and Morgan counties, most voters did not experience the same meltdowns that occurred in some metro Atlanta precincts during the June primaries.

Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said Georgia voters were waiting an average of just three minutes at polling places Tuesday afternoon, my colleague Mark Niesse reports.

“We are having a successful election in Georgia today,” Raffensperger said this afternoon. “That’s what everyone wants from government -- they want it to be responsive to the people, and they want it to work. So we’ve made it work.”

Part of that was because nearly 4 million voters opted to vote early or by absentee ballot.

Still, the day wasn’t without any drama.

Two polling places in DeKalb County will be staying open past 7 p.m. to make up for opening late this morning. Ditto for a Cobb County precinct after a poll manager overslept this morning.

And a federal judge ordered U.S. Postal Service inspectors to search mail processing facilities in Atlanta and elsewhere to find undelivered ballots. The AJC’s Kristal Dixon reports that the order was imposed in districts whose election mail processing scores for completed ballots returns by voters were below 90 percent for at least two days from Oct. 26 to 28.

November 3, 2020 Atlanta - Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger speaks to members of the press on election updates on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, 2020. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)


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4:30 p.m.

Pins and Needles

In case you needed any more evidence of Georgia’s battleground status, look no further than The New York Times' website this evening. Georgia is one of three states that will have its own election night needle, along with North Carolina and Florida.

The Times said it chose the three states because of the troves of detail their secretary of state offices provide about the types of votes cast and the speed by which they do it. All three also close their polls early in the evening.

Here’s what to look for, according to the Times' polling gurus:

"If Joe Biden wins even one of these states, he is a solid favorite to win the presidency. If President Trump wins all three, both candidates have realistic paths to the presidency.

If the results in these states are unclear, or if Mr. Trump wins them all, we will have to wait for ballots in some states like Arizona, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. And that could take days."

The newspaper was heavily criticized for its national election needle in 2016, which heavily favored Hillary Clinton to win early on election night before flipping to Trump. Reporters Nate Cohn and Josh Katz said the Times would not be doing a national needle this year because of the record number of mail-in ballots cast.

4:00 p.m.

Presidential strategy

President Donald Trump is looking to continue the GOP’s streak of presidential wins here – no Democrat has won Georgia’s 16 electoral votes since 1992. He’ll seek to do it by driving up turnout among white conservatives in the state’s rural and exurban swaths and putting up a respectable showing in Atlanta’s increasingly competitive suburbs.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is hoping to surf a blue wave of suburban discontent – particularly among white women who tend to Republican but loathe Trump – and couple it with a dominant showing in vote-rich Atlanta and other diverse urban areas.

As my colleague Greg Bluestein put it in his excellent election preview, Democrats believe they’ll have a good night in Georgia if they achieve a 30-30: winning 30% of the white vote and Black voter turnout reaching 30% of the overall electorate. They didn’t come particularly close in 2016, when exit polls showed Hillary Clinton winning about 21% of white voters, while Black turnout hit 28%.