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Voters wait in line to vote at the Buckhead Library in Atlanta on the first day of in-person early voting for the Georgia Senate runoff election. Photo: Jason Armond/Getty Images

Georgia's on an early path to a huge turnout in the two runoffs to decide control of the U.S. Senate, according to data from the Georgia Secretary of State's Office crunched by Axios.

By the numbers: Voters cast 482,000 ballots in roughly the first day and a half of early voting this week. That’s equivalent to one-third of the total in the last statewide general election runoff, held in 2018, and about one-fourth of the total ballots in the last Senate runoff, held in 2008.

Driving the news: President-elect Biden visited the state today to try to boost turnout for Democrats before the Christmas holiday. The election is Jan. 5. Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler are squaring off against Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, and the opening turnout highlighted voter interest in the races.

  • Not only are Biden and Vice President-elect Harris visiting the state this week, but President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence campaigned in Georgia earlier this month.
  • If Democrats pick up both seats, they gain a 50-50 Senate — with Harris casting tie-breaking votes. If Republicans win just one race, Mitch McConnell remains majority leader and sets the chamber's agenda.

What to watch: You can't read too much into early ballot numbers just yet. Georgia does not register voters by party, so it's even less clear who might be benefiting from early voting so far. That said, the first-day tally points to unusually high turnout, aided by expanded voting by mail, which tends to favor Democrats and helped Biden beat Trump in Georgia — the first time a Democratic presidential candidate had won the state since Bill Clinton in 1992.

  • 65% of ballots cast so far in the Georgia runoffs were sent by mail.
  • There are still more than 900,000 mail ballots that have been requested but not yet returned.

Be smart: Not only is there extra hype around the Senate runoffs that could drive more voters to the polls, but Georgia's population has been growing rapidly — including a million new voters in four years.

  • The big early number could be just a reflection of the sheer increase in the voting population.

Go deeper

Mike Pence calls Kamala Harris to offer congratulations and help

Mike Pence. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty

Vice President Mike Pence called Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Thursday to congratulate her and offer assistance in the transition, the New York Times first reported.

Why it matters: The belated conversation came six days before the inauguration after a contentious post-election stretch. President Trump has neither spoken with President-elect Joe Biden, nor explicitly conceded the 2020 election.

Updated 52 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Alexey Navalny detained after landing back in Moscow

Navalny and his wife shortly before he was detained. Photo: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny was detained upon his return to Moscow on Sunday, which came five months after he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. He returned despite being warned that he would be arrested.

The latest: Navalny was stopped at a customs checkpoint and led away alone by officers. He appeared to hug his wife goodbye, and his spokesman reports that his lawyer was not allowed to accompany him.