Georgia certifies Ossoff, Warnock victories

Georgia election officials on Tuesday certified the victories of two Democrats who won in the state's hard-fought U.S. Senate runoff elections earlier this month, paving the way for them to take office as early as Wednesday.

Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock narrowly defeated Republican incumbents David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5. runoffs, a stunning and unexpected boon for President-elect Joe Biden.

Shortly before Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger certified the results Tuesday, election officials in Fulton County grappled with discrepancies between the unofficial vote totals reported and the final tallies. In the end, those discrepancies gave Perdue and Loeffler a few hundred additional votes - not enough to alter the outcome, officials said.

Ossoff and Warnock are expected to be sworn in Wednesday by newly inaugurated Vice President Kamala Harris in one of her first acts in presiding over the Senate, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the plan.

She is also set to swear in Alex Padilla, the former California secretary of state who was appointed by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom to fill Harris's own Senate seat.

Their arrivals will give Democrats a Senate majority, with Harris providing a tie-breaking vote. Because the body itself will be split 50-50, incoming Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and outgoing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are negotiating a power-sharing agreement that is likely to feature equal seats on committees and mutual power to send tied committee votes to the floor.

That means Democrats will control both the White House and Congress for the first time in 10 years, although the party's House majority shrank in the November elections.

The Republicans' twin losses in Georgia have been blamed largely on President Donald Trump, who was fixated on his own defeat in the state, which Biden won by less than 12,000 votes.

Trump repeatedly pressured state officials to overturn the results, falsely claiming that Biden's victory was the result of fraud. He traveled twice to the state during the runoff campaign for speeches that largely focused on his own grievances against state Republican leaders. That focus undermined the argument that the Senate needed Republican control to serve as a check on Biden, which internal GOP polling showed was the most potent way to win swing votes.

Those failures, combined with a massive Democratic effort in the state to turn out Black and Hispanic voters, produced two historic upsets.

Warnock, who leads the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s former church in Atlanta, will be the first Black Democrat elected to the Senate from a former Confederate state. Ossoff, a 33-year-old Jewish filmmaker who previously interned for Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., the late civil rights icon, will be the youngest incoming senator in decades.

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The Washington Post's Seung Min Kim and Michael Scherer contributed to this report.