The old mantra that every vote counts may ring truer nowhere than in the state of Georgia, where overseas and military ballots could end up determining control of the U.S. Senate and the fate of Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.

Given that neither of Georgia’s Republican senators captured a majority of more than 50% of ballots on Election Day earlier this month, the races in which voters will determine if Republicans Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue will continue serving have been extended through early January runoffs.

“If Biden becomes president, there won’t be much he can do without control of the Senate and such a close House on top of that,” Carsten Pfau, an economist and political strategist, told Fox News.

The integrity of the election may prove just as important as the outcome following President Trump’s as-yet unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud that have nonetheless been accepted by wide swaths of his Republican base.

“All eyes will be set on the Georgia runoff concerning clean elections,” Pfau said. Many of Trump’s complaints have been centered on mail-in ballots that skewed Democratic and weren’t counted until after in-person votes that had initially given the incumbent the appearance of substantial leads.

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In Georgia, according to data provided by the U.S. Vote Foundation and Overseas Vote, more than 26,000 overseas and military ballots were requested for this year’s general election – a number that far supersedes the margin of victory – meaning the voting bloc is a crucial one.

“Preliminary data reveals that just over 18,000 of the 26,428 overseas and military voters that had received ballots, returned them,” said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, president and CEO of the U.S. Vote Foundation. 

Cobb County Election officials handle ballots during an audit, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

Cobb County Election officials handle ballots during an audit, Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, in Marietta, Ga. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

“Although we cannot say that it is inconsistent with other data, it deserves deeper examination,” she added. “If these GA voters requested their ballots, why didn’t they return them? We suspect that many requested to receive their ballots online, which is possible for overseas and military voters. It’s an upside in terms of the time it takes, but the downside is that these voters likely do not realize that they need to be prepared to print and post those ballots back by post or express mail.”

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Confusion about such logistics during the Senate runoffs may have a significant impact. Democrats need to secure both the seats to attain a 50-50 Senate tie that would leave Vice President-elect Kamala Harris in a position to cast a tie-breaking vote, handing her party effective control.

In this Nov. 1, 2020, file photo, envelopes containing ballots are shown at a San Francisco voting center. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

In this Nov. 1, 2020, file photo, envelopes containing ballots are shown at a San Francisco voting center. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, File)

The preliminary data from the Georgia secretary of state showed that the 28 of the state’s counties — out of a total 159 — that submitted 100 or more overseas and military ballots were either home to military bases or located near them.

In the runoff races, ballots are sent automatically to overseas or military voters who requested them during the November general election.

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David Beirne, Federal Voting Assistance Program director, pointed out that a service member can also request a postcard application through the agency’s site

U.S. Marine patrols through the Nawa bazaar with an Afghan boy in Nawa District, Helmand Province (U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris/Released)

U.S. Marine patrols through the Nawa bazaar with an Afghan boy in Nawa District, Helmand Province (U.S Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Jeremy Harris/Released)

In the meantime, Democrats and Republicans alike are devoting ample personnel and financial resources to the runoff, engaging voters and urging their bases in the state of 10.6 million not to succumb to voter fatigue.

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The last time Republicans lost a Senate race in Georgia was two decades ago, but with shifting demographics, especially in growing urban areas, political pundits surmise that the vote may swing either way.

“This election saw an increase of overseas and military voter participation in Georgai, exactly what we predicted based on our website usage,” Dzieduszycka-Suinat added. “I predict that a new record for overseas and military ballots cast in a runoff, and possibly any Georgia election, is about to be set.”

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