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Georgia's 2 Crucial U.S. Senate Runoffs Are A Week Away

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

We are a week away from two crucial Senate runoff elections in Georgia. The outcome will determine which party controls the Senate. And early voting has been underway for weeks. Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting has been covering both races and is with us. Good morning.

STEPHEN FOWLER, BYLINE: Good morning.

FADEL: So Stephen, people have been casting ballots for a few weeks now. So what can you tell us about the vote so far?

FOWLER: Well, more than 2.3 million Georgians have already voted in this election through early in-person voting or returning an absentee by mail ballot. That's pretty stunning for a runoff, which typically...

FADEL: Wow.

FOWLER: ...Doesn't have that many people voting. But like you said, control of the U.S. Senate is on the line. Now, what we know is that these voters are slightly younger and slightly more diverse than what we saw in the general electorate. So that typically means that Democrats are ahead as of right now. And we look at the data of where people are voting. And most of these early votes are coming from metro Atlanta, suburban counties around the state and in typical Democratic strongholds.

FADEL: But how much can we really tell? Back in November, we really saw Democrats dominate the early and absentee vote while Republicans turned out more on Election Day. So is that pattern repeating itself this time around?

FOWLER: Yes and no. We are seeing, you know, people voting at a similar pace that they were in the general election. But what's noticeable is who's not showing up to vote. I mean, Republicans do typically use Georgia's three weeks of early voting. But the numbers of Republican-leaning counties and rural strongholds are way down from what you would expect to see compared to some of the other counties. And so it's an uphill battle for Republicans to try to counteract all of the Democratic early voting, made more complicated by the holiday, where early voting is actually going to end a couple days early this time because of the new year.

FADEL: Interesting because Georgia has been the focal point for President Trump's baseless claims that the election was stolen from him. So how much is that impacting what voters are doing now?

FOWLER: It definitely has an impact. But it's hard to really quantify that because many of the people that have attended his rallies throughout the state and said that the system is rigged and that Trump should have won and that there's problems with our voting system are lining up to vote in these early voting sites.

FADEL: Really?

FOWLER: And so it's just really hard to square. But also, President Trump is holding a rally the night before the election in northwest Georgia, the 14th Congressional District, where Marjorie Taylor Greene is about to take office. She's leading the charge of trying to challenge election results. And that district has the lowest turnout of any congressional district in Georgia. And none of those things are coincidences.

FADEL: That's Stephen Fowler of Georgia Public Broadcasting. He's been covering this closely for us. He also hosts the Battleground: Ballot Box podcast. Thank you so much, Stephen.

FOWLER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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