The Georgia Special Election Results Are In

June 20th 2017

Danielle DeCourcey

After a contentious and tight race, there's finally a winner of Tuesday's special election for Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District.

Georgia Republican Karen Handel beat Democrat challenger John Ossoff; the results were called by Decision Desk just before 10 p.m. Eastern. 

The race, which resulted in a runoff after no candidate earned more than 50 percent of the vote during the April election, fills a seat vacated by President Donald Trump's Health Secretary Tom Price. It was the most expensive race for a House seat in U.S. history, according to the New York Times. A report by the Center for Public integrity found that out-of-state groups spent more than $26 million on the election, mostly in support of Handel.

The race had national implications, as the winner could influence Trump administration's legislative agenda that includes a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and serve as a bell-weather for the 2018 congressional elections. The Times reported that Republicans have held the 6th District for four decades.

While Handel, 55, tried to capitalize on the conservative-leanings of the district during her campaign, Ossoff, 30, used Trump's unpopularity in the district to try to galvanize Democrats. The hashtag #Flipthe6th trended on Twitter in April before the first vote in this special election, a part of the effort to push Ossoff over the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff

Ossoff received more than 48.3 percent, with Handel earning only 20 percent. However, polling had been extremely tight ever since the field was narrowed to just two candidates.

The race saw some controversy because of Georgia's voting rules, which critics have called unfair. The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, along with other civil rights groups, sued the state in April to extend a voter deadline that they say would have limited turnout. State officials set a deadline of March 20 for people to register to vote for both the April primary special election and Tuesday's election. The advocates argued that the deadline for registration for the runoff vote shouldn't have been until May, and that the restriction was designed to influence the election by keeping potential Democratic voters out.

"This election is a special election, but the tactics that the secretary of state and the state of Georgia are employing are anything but special," Francys Johnson, state president of the Georgia NAACP, reportedly said on a press call. "They are typical, and that is to make voting difficult, to make voting something that all Georgians cannot participate in, and we believe that flies in the face of both the letter and the spirit of the National Voter Registration Act."

On May 4, a federal judge agreed to reopen the registration in the sixth district and extend it to May 21.

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