Perdue in quarantine as early voting record is set in last days of Georgia Senate run-off

Outcome of vote is crucial for Joe Biden's presidential agenda

Senator David Perdue (R-GA) speaks during a campaign event as he runs for reelection at the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub, in Milton, Georgia, U.S., December 21, 2020.REUTERS/Al Drago
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More than 2.8 million Georgians have voted so far in a US Senate run-off election, state data published on Thursday said.

The closely watched race will determine whether the Democrats control both chambers of Congress.

The figures, published on the last day of early in-person voting before the January 5 election, are added to an already record-high turnout for a Georgia run-off, exceeding the 2.1 million ballots cast in a 2008 Senate contest.

The run-offs pit Democratic challengers Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff against Republican incumbent senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

The run-off was necessary because no candidate won more than 50 per cent of the vote on November 3.

Mr Perdue was forced into quarantine on Thursday, disclosing five days before the election that he had been exposed to a campaign worker infected with the coronavirus.

Mr Perdue’s campaign did not say how long he planned to stay in quarantine, but guidelines from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say those exposed can resume normal activities after seven days if they have a negative test result.

That would keep him in isolation for the remainder of the campaign.

Georgia's surge in early voting, including among black voters who have historically supported the Democratic Party, suggest a competitive race in a state that president-elect Joe Biden narrowly won in November.

About a third of the ballots accepted so far come from voters who identified as black when they registered to vote, up from about 27 per cent in the November election.

The state releases information about the number of people who voted but does not count their votes until election day.

The outcome of the two races will be critical in shaping Mr Biden's agenda after he takes office.

If Republicans win one or both Senate seats in Georgia, they will retain a slim majority in the chamber and can block Mr Biden's legislative goals and judicial nominees.

If Democrats win both seats, the chamber will be split 50-50, giving the tie-breaking vote to vice president-elect Kamala Harris.

Early voting numbers, by mail and in person, have been high across the state, including in Republican areas.

Across more than 2,600 voting precincts, county officials have accepted about the same number of ballots in precincts carried by President Donald Trump in November as in those carried by Mr Biden.