Democratic Senate candidates John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are both heading to Georgia's Jan. 5 runoff election against Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, respectively. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Democratic Senate candidates John Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are both heading to Georgia's Jan. 5 runoff election against Sen. David Perdue and Sen. Kelly Loeffler, respectively. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Jon Ossoff and Sen. David Perdue—as well as Rev. Raphael Warnock and Sen. Kelly Loeffler—are going head to head in Georgia’s runoff elections on Jan. 5. Here’s everything you need to know about voting in the races.

All eyes are on Georgia, as the state’s Jan. 5, 2021, Senate runoff elections will determine which party has control of the Senate. As such, the outcome of those elections could have serious implications for President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda, and the kinds of policies he is able to enact during his presidency. 

Here’s everything you need to know about voting in Georgia’s runoff elections.

What Are the Important Dates and Deadlines in the Georgia Runoff Elections?

Nov. 18: Some Absentee Ballots Go Out

Absentee ballots will be sent to voters that have requested them already.

Dec. 7: Register to Vote

This is the deadline to register to vote in time for the runoff elections. Georgia residents who will turn 18 before Jan. 5 are allowed to vote in the elections, as long as they register by Dec. 7.

Dec. 14 – 31: Early Voting in Georgia’s Runoff Elections

Georgia will allow early in-person voting for the Senate runoff elections. It lasts from Dec. 14 through New Year’s Eve. Note that hours at individual polling sites vary.

Dec. 26: Saturday Early Voting

The day after Christmas is the state-required Saturday for early in-person voting across the state.

Jan 1: Last Day to Request Absentee Ballots

The end of the business day on Friday, Jan. 1 is the last day to request absentee ballots in Georgia. However, you should hand deliver your absentee ballot if you’re requested it this late to avoid mail delays when returning your ballot.

Jan. 5: Election Day for US Senate Runoff Races

This is election day for the Georgia US Senate runoff elections. In-person voting lasts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. All absentee ballots must be received—either in the mail or in person—by 7 p.m. on Jan. 5.

How Do I Vote in the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections?

What Are My Voting Options in Georgia?

Georgians who are registered to vote by Dec. 7 can vote in person on election day or during the early voting period,. You can also drop off absentee ballots in person during early voting and on election day.

What if I’m 18 by Election Day, but Not on the Dec. 7 Registration Deadline?

Georgia residents who turn 18 on or before Jan. 5 may register to vote in advance of their birthday in order to meet the Dec. 7 registration deadline in Georgia.

Can I Vote by Mail in the Georgia Runoff?

Yes, registered voters can mail in their absentee ballots after they’ve requested and received them. However, keep in mind that mailing in your ballot requires significantly more lead time than dropping it off due to ongoing mail delays. Georgia also has a firm deadline on Jan. 5 by which mailed ballots must be received.

Can I Vote in Person in the Georgia Runoff?

Yes, registered voters will be able to vote in person for the Georgia runoff on election day for the Senate races, which is Jan. 5. You may vote from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There is also an early voting period taking place from Dec. 14-31. Hours may differ for early voting from one polling place to another. 

Note that while Georgia voters have an assigned polling place on election day, they may vote at any early voting location within their county during the early voting period.  

Do I Need to Request an Absentee Ballot?

Yes. Registered Georgia voters must request an absentee ballot by filling out, signing, and submitting an absentee ballot application. You can do this online, by mail, by fax, or in person at your County Board of Registrar’s Office.

Disabled, elderly, military, and overseas voters who received an absentee ballot for the Nov. 3 election will automatically receive one for the runoff elections. Voters will either receive their absentee ballot in the mail or electronically.

How Can I Submit My Absentee Ballot?

Voters can submit their absentee ballot either by mail or by dropping it off at a drop-off location for their county. Drop-off locations for absentee ballots can be found here.

Should I Mail My Absentee Ballot or Drop it Off?

Voters who aren’t able to drop their absentee ballot off in person should ensure their ballot is in the mail as soon as possible. Ballots in Georgia need to be received by 7 p.m. on election day, Jan. 5, to be counted. 

Given the continued issues with the Postal Service, dropping your absentee ballot off in person may be the most secure way to ensure that your ballot arrives in time to be counted. At least 8,000 ballots in Georgia’s primary election this summer were disqualified for arriving by past deadline. 

Who Is Running in the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections?

In what is technically a special election, Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock faces Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler was appointed to the seat in 2019 to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson when he retired before his term ended.

The other US Senate race taking place in Georgia is between Democrat Jon Ossoff Republican Sen. David Perdue, who was elected to his position in 2014.

Both Loeffler and Perdue are allies of President Trump and have not acknowledged Joe Biden’s win in the presidential election

Ossoff has challenged Perdue to three televised debates ahead of the election, but nothing has been scheduled yet. So far Warnock and Loeffler have not agreed to any debates. 

But Wait…Why Is Georgia Holding Runoff Elections?

Georgia is one of only a handful of states that requires candidates to receive at least 50% of the vote to win an election. On Nov. 3, no candidates crossed that threshold for Georgia’s US Senate races, so the top two candidates in each race have advanced to the runoffs on Jan. 5, 2021. For a full explanation of runoff elections, check out our guide to what’s going on in Georgia here.