Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler head to runoff in January (Photos by Getty Images)
Raphael Warnock and Kelly Loeffler head to runoff in January (Photos by Getty Images)

Georgia is one of only two states that requires winning candidates for federal office to receive a clear, 50% majority of the vote in the general election.

Control of the US Senate appears to have come down to Georgia, where incumbent Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both have failed to claim 50% of the general election vote, prompting a pair of runoff elections on Jan. 5.

If you’ve never heard of a runoff, that’s because it’s a rare occurrence. Georgia is one of only two states—the other is Louisiana—that requires winning candidates for federal office to receive a clear, 50% majority of the vote in the general election. If they fail to, they must then participate in a second, “runoff” election, which features only two candidates, and thus will automatically result in one candidate clearing 50%.

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Loeffler, who was appointed to her seat last December, fell far short of that mark during the election this week. The millionaire co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream finished second in a special election featuring more than 20 candidates, earning only 26% of the vote. In first place was Democrat and pastor Raphael Warnock, who won 33% of the vote. Conservative Rep. Doug Collins, who ended up with 20% of the vote, finished third. As a result, Warnock and Loeffler will face off head-to-head in January. 

In Georgia’s other Senate race, Perdue holds just below the 50% he needs to claim victory. As of Friday afternoon, Perdue had garnered 2,449,661 votes, or 49.84% of the vote, while Democrat Jon Ossoff had earned 2,351,663 votes, or 47.85%. Although major news outlets have yet to call the race, it’s all but certain Perdue and Ossoff will face off once again in the new year.

“This race is headed to a runoff,” Ossoff said at a press conference Friday morning. “We have all the momentum, we have all the energy, we’re on the right side of history. Y’all ready to work? We’re just getting started.”

David Perdue and Jon Ossoff (Photos via Getty Images)

Both races are certain to receive nationwide attention, as the stakes of the runoffs are going to be extraordinarily high. While other races in Alaska and North Carolina have yet to be officially called, it is all but certain that Republicans will hold a 50-48 edge in the Senate heading into January’s runoffs. If Joe Biden secures the 270 electoral votes he needs to become president, this means that Democrats would need to win both Georgia seats to secure a 50-50 tie in the Senate, which would allow vice president-elect Kamala Harris to break any tie in favor of Democrats. 

On the other hand, if Republicans win even one of the Georgia seats, they will retain their Senate majority and be able to obstruct legislation and stymie much of Biden’s agenda.

READ MORE: The Possible Georgia Recount, Explained