When can Ossoff and Warnock be sworn in after Georgia Senate runoffs?

U.S. Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock, center, won't be able to take office until Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the results of Tuesday's runoff elections. Each of the state's 159 counties must certify its results before Raffensperger can act. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
U.S. Sens.-elect Jon Ossoff, left, and Raphael Warnock, center, won't be able to take office until Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has certified the results of Tuesday's runoff elections. Each of the state's 159 counties must certify its results before Raffensperger can act. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

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

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

Incoming U.S. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff will have to wait until Georgia’s election results are certified later this month before they can be sworn into office.

Even though both of their Republican opponents have conceded, the election results won’t be official until each of Georgia’s 159 counties and the secretary of state finalize vote counts.

Georgia law gives Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger 17 days after the election, until Jan. 22, to certify the results.

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Once Warnock and Ossoff take office, they will give the Democratic Party control of the U.S. Senate. The Senate will be evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, with incoming Vice President Kamala Harris breaking ties after she’s sworn in along with President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20.

Raffensperger, a Republican, can’t move much more quickly because each of the state’s 159 counties must first finalize its vote count by a Jan. 15 deadline, according to the secretary of state’s office. After counties report their results, it’s possible that Raffensperger could certify the election before Jan. 22.

Until results are completed, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler is still in office, serving the unfinished term of former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s six-year term ended Jan. 3.

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A spokesman for U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, a Democrat from New York set to become the Senate’s majority leader, confirmed that state election results must be certified before Georgia’s new senators can take office.

A recount in runoffs appears unlikely. State law gives losing candidates a right to a recount if they trail by less than half a percentage point, but Warnock’s and Ossoff’s leads exceed that threshold. Each Democrat was winning his runoff by more than a 1% margin as of Friday.

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