Voters are headed to the polls in Georgia, where control of the Senate hangs in the balance — and with it, much of Biden’s agenda. It’s Tuesday, and this is your politics tip sheet. Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.
Where things stand
Today is the big day. As of 7 a.m. Eastern time, polls are opening across Georgia in the two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the Senate.
It’s an enormous prize. Democratic power over the Senate would mean that as president, Joe Biden wouldn’t have to get past Mitch McConnell — the Republican leader sometimes known as “Dr. No” — to confirm his political appointees and judges, or to bring up legislation.
Almost 40 percent of all registered voters in the state have already cast ballots early, either by mail or in person. It’s impossible to read the tea leaves, particularly in such a close race, but there is evidence that Black voters have been particularly energized. Among those who didn’t participate in the general election but had already cast ballots by the beginning of last week, roughly four in 10 were African-American — far more than Black voters’ overall share in Georgia — according to TargetSmart data.
Those early votes aren’t allowed to be counted until polls close tonight at 7 o’clock, although they have been processed and prepared for tallying. Mail-in ballots will be accepted until the polls close, but not after.
It’s unclear when we’ll have a winner in either or both races. Observers say the vote counting may well continue into tomorrow, and because the races are expected to be tight, it’s possible we won’t know who won until tomorrow — or even later. You can keep up with our coverage at nytimes.com.
Congress will convene tomorrow to count the Electoral College’s votes and declare the official results of this never-ending presidential election. It would typically be a rote affair, but with President Trump refusing to accept defeat, his allies are planning a show of loyalty that seems destined to become a messy spectacle.
A small but meaningful group of G.O.P. legislators in the House and the Senate have said they intend to challenge the election’s results, heeding Trump’s wishes even though no evidence has been presented to support his claims of widespread fraud or malfeasance.
Kelly Loeffler, one of the two Republican senators competing in today’s Georgia runoffs, announced yesterday that she would join 12 of her colleagues in voting against the Electoral College’s certification process.
But far more Republicans have come out against the move, including a group of conservative House members who published a letter yesterday starkly arguing that it would violate the Constitution. “To take action otherwise — that is, to unconstitutionally insert Congress into the center of the presidential election process — would amount to stealing power from the people and the states,” the group wrote.
Gabriel Sterling, a top Republican election official in Georgia who has already spoken out against Trump’s contestations, delivered his most scathing rebuke yet of the president’s claims. “This is all easily, provably false, yet the president persists, and by doing so undermines Georgians’ faith in the election system,” he said yesterday.
Sterling said he had “screamed in my car at the radio” when he heard a recording, published on Sunday by The Washington Post, of Trump pressuring Georgia’s secretary of state to “find” enough votes to overturn the election results.
Fearing that Trump’s disputing of the election outcome might cause some Republican voters to doubt the worthiness of participating in the runoffs, Sterling sought to allay those concerns. “If you want your values reflected by your elected officials, I strongly beg and encourage you, go vote tomorrow,” he said. “Do not self-suppress your own vote. Don’t let anybody steal your vote that way.”
It’s not just Republican politicians who now find themselves divided by Trump’s baseless arguments. Right-wing media pundits have inevitably had to choose a team in this epic battle of loyalty versus reality — and they haven’t all come down on the same side.
Brian Kilmeade, a host of “Fox & Friends,” said yesterday that Trump’s efforts to reverse the election were “the type of anarchy that doesn’t work for anybody, Republicans or Democrats, in the big picture.” His co-host Steve Doocy agreed, saying of Trump’s claims, “So far, we haven’t seen the evidence.”
But Mark Levin, who hosts a prime-time show on Fox News, is not ditching the president. “Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are being destroyed by the Democratic Party and the media,” he said as he defended Trump’s claims of fraud, calling the Republican Senate leadership “utterly pathetic” for not siding with the president.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have now certified their election results, and judges across the country have rejected nearly 60 attempts by the president and his allies to challenge the verdict.
Meanwhile, 170 chief executives and other business leaders yesterday signed a letter of their own, urging Congress to accept the results of the election. The group includes top leaders at BlackRock, Lyft, Microsoft and numerous other companies.
“Our duly elected leaders deserve the respect and bipartisan support of all Americans at a moment when we are dealing with the worst health and economic crises in modern history,” the executives wrote in the statement, organized by the Partnership for New York City, a business advocacy organization. “There should be no further delay in the orderly transfer of power.”
Thomas Donohue, the head of the conservative-leaning U.S. Chamber of Commerce, also issued a statement yesterday urging Congress to certify the vote.
Groups supporting the president are already on their way to Washington with plans to stage protests outside the Capitol when Congress takes up the Electoral College vote tomorrow. The organizations planning to march include the Proud Boys, a far-right group whose members frequently espouse white-supremacist views.
Trump himself has endorsed the protests. On New Year’s Day, he tweeted: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11.00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”
Some have expressed concern that these protests may turn dangerous, after demonstrations in Washington last month led to violent clashes in which four people were stabbed.
Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, was arrested yesterday after arriving in Washington, on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that had been torn down from a historic Black church during those confrontations last month.
Tarrio was arrested on charges of property destruction; after the police found him in possession of two high-capacity firearm magazines yesterday, he was slapped with additional charges.
Photo of the day
Biden campaigned yesterday in Atlanta for the Democratic Senate candidates in Georgia, Jon Ossoff, left, and the Rev. Raphael Warnock.
Musicians’ minds are on Georgia, too.
Getting out the vote during a pandemic is a complicated thing, but musicians seeking to make a difference have found ways to get creative.
In November, a group called Joy to the Polls mounted pop-up concerts at polling places in competitive states, bringing professional musicians out to perform for voters as they waited in line. And Joy to the Polls has stayed busy throughout the early-voting period in the Georgia runoff elections, organizing surprise concerts at voting locations across the state and especially in Atlanta, the unofficial capital of hip-hop today.
Joy to the Polls isn’t the only group pulling artists together to try to drive turnout. A number have gotten involved remotely, with no fewer than three separate groups of musicians creating Zoom-style collaborative renditions of Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell’s classic song “Georgia on My Mind.”
Lin-Manuel Miranda, the actor and playwright of “Hamilton” fame, brought together a number of Broadway stars under the moniker Rock the Runoff to create a rousing, gospelly rendition of the song.
Working in collaboration with the Biden campaign, Sunny Jain and a number of other musicians with South Asian roots created their own take on the song, with the lyrics sung in Hindi. The explicit goal was to turn out South Asian-American voters to support the Democratic Senate candidates.
And Lift Every Vote 2020, a group that has worked to register young and nonwhite voters across the state ahead of the runoffs, pulled together a team of A-list jazz musicians to record a coolly paced, laid-back version of the tune.
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