Will we know who wins Senate runoffs on night of election? Not likely, experts say

ATLANTA — All eyes are on the Peach State as Georgians continue to head to the polls in the Jan. 5 runoff elections for both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats.

The election will determine which political party will have a majority in the Senate. But will we know which are the winning candidates that night?

Much like the November election, political experts told Channel 2′s Matt Johnson that they are bracing for more drama and lawsuits following Jan. 5.

Whoever wins the battle for control of the U.S. Senate — it’s not expected to be a landslide.

“Certainly, I think Georgians need to be patient,” Georgia State University assistant law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said.

Three statewide vote counts showed that President-elect Joe Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes in November. If the runoff elections prove to be that close, the fallout could last past Jan. 5.

“It doesn’t matter whether we get it that night, the next day or two days later. What we really need to shoot for is accuracy,” Kreis said.


He said attorneys could file lawsuits that challenge the results of the runoff races similar to what we saw after the presidential results.

“It might come back with less, you know, intensity, because it has already been litigated again and again and again and rejected by courts and our elected officials,” Kreis said.

Scott Ainsworth is a political science professor at the University of Georgia. He told Johnson that he doesn’t expect the political back and forth to be over Jan. 5.

“We’re going to get a lot of attention, and people are going to be flyspecking everything,” Ainsworth said.

Georgia already saw five lawsuits, an audit and a recount after the general election.

Ainsworth said if both Republicans win in January, Democrats may look for evidence of voter suppression to bring before a judge.

“Ease of registration, waiting times for polling stations, availability of polling stations in more densely populated areas. And so those sorts of things will get some attention, I would imagine, if the Republican candidates are successful,” Ainsworth said.

If both Democrats win, there could be similar questions from Republicans about vote counting that were raised in November.

“I don’t see it, you know, all of a sudden disappearing,” Ainsworth said.

Election officials are preparing to push back against misinformation campaigns after the votes in the runoff races are counted.

Threats of violence against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and even county election workers have not been forgotten.

For some experts, they said what could happen in court is only one phase of the fallout. They expect the results of November and January’s elections to lead to a battle for election reform among state lawmakers.

“The real, contentious fights will be when the legislature convenes in January, and legislation is introduced to reform election rules,” Kreis said.

Johnson also contacted several people who observed the ballot counting during the recounts. They said they’re prepared to go back and observe the process again if indeed and if there are more recounts next month.