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Voters line outside the High Museum polling station in Atlanta, Georgia on the first day of voting in the state's Senate runoffs. Photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

People lined up outside polling places across Georgia on Monday for the first day of early voting in the state's two runoff elections that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.

The big picture: More than 1.2 million people have already requested mail-in absentee ballots and more than 260,000 have returned them as of Monday, per data compiled by the U.S. Elections Project.

  • Absentee voting was key to Biden's victory in the state, where Democrats, largely led by Stacey Abrams launched massive get-out-the-vote efforts.
  • Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue are fighting to keep their seats against Democrat challengers, Rev. Raphael Warnock. and Jon Ossoff.
  • Democrats are looking to gain the two seats for a 50-50 split in the Senate, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking any ties.
  • Which party controls the Senate will determine how easily President-elect Joe Biden is able to get his agenda through.

What they're saying: “It looks like we’re going to have a high-turnout election,” Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told the Wall Street Journal Monday.

  • “I would encourage all the candidates to make sure that they run hard, because we don’t have a runoff after the runoff. This is it," added Raffensperger, who has come under fire from fellow Republicans for standing by the results of the presidential election, including President Trump.
  • Loeffler tweeted Monday: "EARLY VOTING IS UNDERWAY! Find your polling location. Make a plan. And let’s save the American Dream!"
  • Warnock said on Twitter that only "in America is my story even possible. While it was humbling to vote for myself today, there’s more than a name on the ballot. Health care is on the ballot. A livable wage is on the ballot. Voting rights are on the ballot. So make a plan to vote today, and let’s win."
  • Perdue, on an early vote tour, tweeted, "The stakes are too high to sit this one out — we need EVERY Republican to show up. Vote early starting today!"
  • Ossoff echoed Warnock’s message in a video posted to Twitter. “Make a plan to vote for health, jobs and justice. Let’s make a difference for the people.

The state of play: Early voting in the state ends Dec. 31.

  • There will be fewer early voting sites in some parts of the state than in the general election, angering some voting rights groups, per CNN.
  • Election day is Jan. 5.

Worth noting: Some Republicans are concerned that Trump's false claims of widespread voter fraud, including in Georgia, and his attacks on the state's Republican governor may hurt the party in January.

Go deeper: Trump's election misinformation casts shadow over Georgia Senate debate

Go deeper

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. This Axios series takes you inside the collapse of a president.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”

Jan 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Republicans ignore McCarthy and name-drop anyway

Rep. Liz Cheney speaks as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy watches. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc via Getty Images

Members of the House Republican Conference ignored leader Kevin McCarthy last week when he warned them against criticizing colleagues by name based on intelligence that doing so could trigger more political violence.

Why it matters: McCarthy made clear that name-dropping opponents, instead of spelling out complaints in more general terms, can put a literal target on a politician, especially with tensions so high following the events of Jan. 6.