In-person early voting begins Monday in the U.S. state of Georgia where two runoff elections will decide which political party holds a majority in the U.S. Senate when a new term begins in January.
Democrats are challenging two Republican incumbents after no candidate earned an absolute majority in either race in the November general election.
Republicans currently stand to hold a 50 to 48 advantage in the 100-seat Senate. But with a Democrat winning the presidential election, and the vice president wielding a tie-breaker vote in a 50-50 Senate, Democrats could claim a majority by winning both Georgia seats.
With Democrats already holding a majority in the House of Representatives, the stakes for both parties are immense in determining the course of U.S. policy in the coming years.
In one contest, Democrat Raphael Warnock is trying to unseat Republican Senator Kelly Loefller, while in the other race Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging Republican Senator David Perdue.
Georgia was one of many states that saw huge early voting turnouts in November as people opted to try to avoid large election day crowds amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than half of the roughly five million votes in Georgia were cast before election day, including 125,000 on the first day of early voting.
Voters will have until December 31 in some parts of the state to cast early ballots with the runoff election date set for January 5.
For decades a Republican stronghold, Georgia was narrowly won by Joe Biden, a Democrat, in the November 3 presidential election.