Polls closed at 7pm on Tuesday in Georgia, where the Democratic senator Raphael Warnock was attempting to win his first full term in a runoff election against the Republican challenger, Herschel Walker.
Neither candidate secured enough support in the general election last month to win outright, thus requiring the runoff race. Warnock has held one of Georgia's two Senate seats since 2021, after he won a special election to finish out the term of the late Republican lawmaker Johnny Isakson.
Nearly 2 million Georgians cast ballots in the runoff before election day, and those early voters were expected to significantly favor Warnock. Republicans were counting on a strong election day turnout.
Dozens of polling locations, particularly in the Atlanta area, reported hours-long lines during early voting, after a 2021 state law condensed the timeline for a runoff election.
The number of early ballots cast was down nearly 40% compared to the January 2021 Senate runoff in which Warnock won his seat. Voting rights activists blamed that decreased turnout on the new election policies. Georgia election officials countered that single-day early voting turnout set new records, rejecting claims of voter suppression.
The race has been upended several times by controversy surrounding Walker, a former University of Georgia football player who won the Republican primary after receiving Donald Trump's endorsement.
Multiple women previously in relationships with Walker accused him of pressuring them to have abortions, despite his staunch anti-abortion views. In the final weeks of the runoff, Walker also faced questions over reports that he received a tax break intended for primary residences on his home in Texas.
Surveys showed Warnock and Walker neck and neck, although the Democratic incumbent pulled into a slight lead in FiveThirtyEight's polling average.
Defeat for Walker would be likely to intensify questions over Trump's standing in the Republican party. Overall, Trump's endorsed candidates fared poorly in this election season, prompting questions from some of the former president's critics over whether he has pushed the Republican party to an unpopular extreme.
"If Walker loses tonight, it will be the sixth time in a row a Democrat beat Trump or a Trump-endorsed statewide candidate in Georgia," the former Republican congressman Will Hurd said on Twitter. "It's time to move on, build the future with conservative principles, and get rid of the crazy bullshit."
The result of the runoff will not determine control of the Senate, as Democrats have already won enough seats to maintain their hold for the next two years.
But a Warnock victory would give Democrats a crucial 51st seat, allowing them to abandon their current power-sharing agreement with Republicans in the evenly divided chamber. A 51-seat majority would also provide Democrats with some wriggle room when it comes to close committee votes and nomination fights.
"This race is about who is going to represent the 11 million people of Georgia for the next six years," Warnock told MSNBC on Monday.
"Given my opponent, this race is not even about Republican versus Democrat, red versus blue, right versus left. It's right versus wrong, and I think people see that."