U.S. President-elect Biden campaigns for Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Ossoff and Warnock at a rally ahead of runoff elections in Atlanta, Georgia

The United States Senate is likely to be flipped from Republican to Democrat as a result of the Georgia run-offs.

Votes are still being counted, but the outcome looks promising for Biden.

But why are Senate elections in Georgia so powerful? And what does this mean for Trump? Here’s what’s actually going on.

Why is Georgia electing its senators now?

Like the rest of the US, Georgia voted on their state representative in early November, at the time of the presidential election. But neither the Republican incumbent David Perdue nor the Democrat challenger Jon Ossoff received more than 50 per cent of the vote. As per Georgian law, that meant a runoff election was necessary to determine the winner.

A special election, which came about because of an existent Georgian senator’s resignation, also went to runoffs as neither the Democrat Raphael Warnock nor the Republican Kelly Loeffler received 50 per cent of the vote.

The runoffs were held on 5 January.

What happened at the runoffs?

With 98 per cent of the votes counted, the Associated Press has called the special election in Warnock’s favour.

Once confirmed, the Democrat will become Georgia’s first Black senator. The son of a former farm labourer, he said in his victory speech:

“The other day – because this is America – the 82-year-old hands that used to pick somebody else's cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States senator.”

He will oust the controversial Trump-supporting Loeffler who served as interim replacement for resigned Republican senator Johnny Isakson.

The outcome of the runoff between Perdue and Ossoff has not been called yet, but Democrat Ossoff is currently winning the race with more than 50 per cent of the votes counted so far.

Why is the outcome important?

The outcome of the runoffs is crucially important because they will determine the balance of power in the United States senate.

If both Ossoff and Warnock win, which is looking increasingly likely, the senate will be split 50/50, with Democrat Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tie-breaking vote. This would mean that the Senate would be ‘flipped’ from Republican to Democrat and that Mitch McConnell will no longer be Senate majority leader.

A hugely influential figure in US politics, McConnell is the Republican’s spokesperson for legislation debated in the House and has the power to persuade other senators to his point of view.

He and other Senate Republicans could essentially block Biden legislation from passing through the House if they held onto their majority. A Democrat majority means that it is likely to pass much more easily.

McConnell is also crucial in ensuring Trump was able to pass his desired legislation through the Senate. This could more easily be undone with the Democrats in power.

What happens next?

Vote counting is ongoing and a winner in the Ossoff-Perdue runoff is yet to be called by the AP and other news organisations.

When the count is finished, the two winners will be officially recognised and inducted as United States senators.

MORE: How to make your New Year's Reslutions stick

Please log in or register to upvote this article
The Conversation (0)