More than 940,000 mail-in ballots have been requested in Georgia for the January 5 runoff election that will decide which party controls the Senate, Gabriel Sterling, the state’s voting systems implementation manager, said Monday.
That includes 604,255 people who are eligible to receive mail-in ballots automatically, according to Sterling. For comparison, 1,322,529 absentee ballots were cast in November’s general election, according to a release from the Georgia Secretary of State’s office.
Sterling said that 1,040 ballots have been returned so far, a “small trickle that we expect to get larger soon.”
Georgia voters are required to request absentee ballots again for the runoff, even if they voted absentee in November, except those over the age of 65, members of the military or physically disabled people who requested absentee ballots for the entire election cycle.
Republicans are struggling to encourage voters to back incumbent Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue as President Donald Trump continues to cast doubt on the results of the presidential election.
If either of the incumbent Republicans hold onto their seats, the party will retain its majority control in the chamber. If Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock both prevail, however, Democrats would gain control of the Senate thanks to Vice President-elect Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.
On Saturday, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel attempted to persuade Republicans to vote in the elections, even as some voters expressed ambivalence about expanding resources in a contest they see as already decided. Trump is slated to travel to the Peach State on Saturday to campaign for Loeffler and Perdue.
On Monday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger – both Republicans – rebuffed Trump’s calls to overturn the state’s election results more than a week after they certified Joe Biden as the winner.
For weeks, Trump has made a series of unfounded claims of fraud in the state, for which there is no evidence. Biden won the state by more than 12,000 votes, and both Kemp and Raffensperger have pledged they will abide by the law.
“Well, I told (Sens. Loeffler and Perdue) today, I think you’re dealing in a very fraudulent system. I’m very worried about that,” the President said during a news conference Thursday, calling both Republican senators “tremendous people.”
Loeffler and Perdue have called for Raffensperger to resign, claiming wrongdoing but without providing any specific evidence to back up their claims.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic also continues to loom over the logistics of the upcoming runoff election. Georgia has faced 471,563 coronavirus cases – the sixth-most cases of any state – as well as 9,452 deaths from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The election process has been underway since earlier this month, with November 18 as the earliest date for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot. December 7 marks the voter registration deadline to vote in the federal runoff election, and advanced in-person or early voting begins for the general election runoff for federal offices on December 14.
CNN’s Chandelis Duster, Paul LeBlanc, Betsy Klein, Donald Judd and Ryan Nobles contributed to this report.