Senate Runoffs in Georgia: A Crucial Battle for Control of the Nation

Zoe Mello Zdraveski, Contributing Writer

Following the tension of November’s presidential election, all eyes turned to the pivotal January 5th runoff for Georgia’s US Senate seats, which will prove central to whether the Biden administration will be able to enact its more ambitious policy proposals. Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are challenging incumbent Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler for not merely their seats, but control of the Senate. The current makeup of the Senate since November’s election stands at 50 Republicans, 46 Democrats, and two Independents who caucus with the Democrats; if Ossoff and Warnock manage to pull off their respective races, the Senate would be half reliable Democratic voters. Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris would provide the tie-breaking 51st vote, putting the governing body under Democratic control.

The stakes are incredibly high for the Biden administration.”

The stakes are incredibly high for the Biden administration; the potential productivity of their political agenda in the next four years looks very different depending on who controls the Senate during this term. Sophomore Phoebe Damato told the Register Forum that “the election is super vital. It will determine whether Biden is able to get anything done during his term.” So much is on the line for the president-elect, from infrastructure and healthcare measures to judicial nominees, and even a sweeping green jobs program. 

Tens of millions of dollars are slated to be poured into Georgia in the weeks leading up to the elections, funding copious political advertisements. Though Joe Biden narrowly won the state in November, it is traditionally difficult to convince voters to turn out for elections whose ballot does not contain the presidential contest, especially in a runoff election several days after new years, not even mentioning the pandemic that has bled into everyday life. The Republican party typically dominates local elections in mostly-conservative Georgia, and the pressure is on, hence the immense amount of media attention and resources being poured into these races. Following President Trump’s baseless accusations that the presidential election was stolen from him, it seems likely that the Republican party will utilize their voters’ bitterness about the presidential race to incentivize them to turn out in Georgia and protect their Senate majority. Republicans in the state have continued to host large in-person rallies, saturating voters with popular conservative senators from across the country and flooding them with conspiracy theories about Trump being the rightful winner of Georgia’s popular vote. Democrats have preferred virtual events, continuing to emphasize (and rely heavily on) the early voting and grassroots outreach that worked for them in November, with concern for public safety during the pandemic. 

An outcry from civil and voting rights organizations was prompted after four of the ten most populous counties in the state announced that they would be reducing the number of early voting locations for the runoffs. Advocates warn that the reduction in early voting places will disproportionately affect Black and Latino voters by making the polls harder to access. The Georgia branches of the NAACP and ACLU sent a letter to local officials imploring them to maintain the voting stations available during the November election and included a map exhibiting how most of these previously available locations were in areas with high proportions of Black voters.

Georgia hasn’t sent a Democratic senator to Washington in decades.”

Though Georgia hasn’t sent a Democratic senator to Washington in decades, current polls show the two races as neck-and-neck, true nail-biters. The future of our nation amidst racial and political unrest, as well as a pandemic, hangs in the balance.