With high stakes for both sides, early voting began Monday in the second round of the Senate in Georgia. The two contests will determine whether Republicans can maintain their majority in the chamber.
The state’s two Republican senators, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, were forced to rush against Democratic challengers. Mr. Perdue faces off against Jon Ossoff, the CEO of a media production company; Ms. Loeffler is challenged by Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock, the senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, a prominent chair in Atlanta that once belonged to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Since polling day, the second round, scheduled for January 5, has been impossible to escape Georgian voters. The candidates’ advertisements covered local radio and television stations, and campaign coverage dominated the local media. In and around Atlanta, road signs are calling on locals to come out and vote – once again.
“I feel like all eyes are on Georgia right now,” said Joanne Williams.
“It can go in any direction,” said Ms. Williams, 27, “but I hope people come forward and practice their right to vote.”
The vote began as Georgia had been in the national political spotlight for weeks. Because of their disproportionate role in determining the partisan balance of the Senate, the second round attracted substantial external attention and investment.
State Democrats were recently reinvigorated, with President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. becoming the party’s first presidential candidate to win Georgia since 1992. Mr. Biden will travel to the state on Tuesday to campaign for Mr. Warnock and M. Ossoff.
Georgia was also a major milestone in President Trump’s fight to challenge the presidential election result, sparking a conflict among Republicans across the state as Mr. Trump raised baseless allegations of voter fraud and attacked the state governor, Brian Kemp, a Republican.
Mr. Trump continued his criticism over the weekend. “What a stupid Governor @BrianKempGA of Georgia is,” the president said in a Twitter message on Sunday. He repeated his argument that Mr. Kemp should have called a special session of the state legislature to try to overturn the election in his favor. And he argued that the situation could mean a “bad day for two BIG Senators on January 5th”.
Raymond Floyd, 37, said he felt the charged energy and excitement of the moment as he queued outside the High Museum of Art in Midtown Atlanta, a few miles from the State Capitol building . Mr Floyd, who planned to vote for Mr Ossoff and Mr Warnock, said: “I like democracy at work.”
But he added, “Once this election is over, I’m ready for a sense of normalcy and a sense of respect.”
Jannat Batra contributed reporting.