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Eyes of the US on Georgia as voters head to the polls with the balance of Congress in their hands

Democrats must win both of the state’s Senate elections to gain the Senate majority.

Supporters on the street in Georgia.
Supporters on the street in Georgia.
Image: PA Images

GEORGIANS ARE VOTING in two US Congress election runoff races that will help determine Joe Biden’s capacity to enact his agenda as president.

Republicans are unified against the president-elect’s plans for health care, environmental protection and civil rights, but some fear that outgoing president Donald Trump’s brazen attempts to undermine the integrity of the nation’s voting systems may discourage voters in the state.

Georgia’s January elections, necessary because no Senate candidates won a majority of the general election votes, have been unique for many reasons, not least because the contenders essentially ran as teams, even campaigning together sometimes.

In one race, Republican Senator David Perdue faces Democrat Jon Ossoff and in the other, Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler faces Reverend Raphael Warnock.

At a rally in north-west Georgia on Monday evening, Trump repeatedly claimed the November elections were plagued by fraud that Republican officials, including his former attorney general and Georgia’s elections chief, say did not occur.

The president called Georgia’s Republican secretary of state “crazy” and vowed to help defeat him in two years. At the same time, Trump encouraged his supporters to show up in force for Georgia’s Tuesday contests.

“You’ve got to swarm it tomorrow,” he told thousands of cheering supporters, downplaying the threat of fraud.

Democrats must win both of the state’s Senate elections to gain the Senate majority. The Senate would be equally divided 50-50, with vice president-elect Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker for Democrats.

Democrats secured a narrow House of Representatives majority and the White House during November’s general election.

Even a closely divided Democratic Senate is not likely to guarantee Biden everything he wants, given Senate rules that require 60 votes to move most major legislation.

But if Democrats lose even one of Tuesday’s contests, he would have little scope for his most ambitious plans to expand government-backed health care coverage, strengthen the middle class, address racial inequality and combat climate change.

A Republican-controlled Senate also would create a rougher path for Biden’s cabinet picks and judicial nominees.

“Georgia, the whole nation is looking to you. The power is literally in your hands,” Biden said at his own rally in Atlanta earlier on Monday.

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“One state can chart the course, not just for the next four years, but for the next generation.”

Despite fears among some Republicans that Trump’s baseless claims of voter fraud could depress turnout, the party’s two candidates have pledged loyalty to the president.

The results also will help demonstrate whether the sweeping political coalition that fuelled Mr Biden’s victory was an anti-Trump anomaly or part of a new landscape.

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