By Evelyn Archibald
The presidential election may have been called for Joe Biden, but one battle continues to rage in Georgia. Two senate seats are up for election, and they may be some of the most important yet.
Candidates Jon Ossoff(D) and incumbent David Perdue(R) are running for one senate seat in Georgia, while candidates Raphael Warnlock(D) and incumbent Kelly Loeffler(R) are up for election in the other. Both races have gone into runoff elections, held on Jan 5, 2021.
Georgia, specifically, has certain rules around runoff elections. Georgia legislation states that “In instances where no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, a run-off primary, special primary runoff, run-off election, or special election runoff between the candidates receiving the two highest numbers of votes shall be held,” making it one of two states in the United States that requires a run-off when no majority is decided.
The majority party in the senate before the election was the Republicans, but after November the senate currently holds a 50 member Republican side and 48 member Democratic side, with the two Georgia seats still up in the air. The events of the runoff could make or break a senate majority either way. If even one seat is filled by an incumbent Republican, the GOP majority holds. However, if the Democratic candidates manage to take both seats, it would result in a 50/50 tie, in which case Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would execute a tie breaking vote.
President Donald Trump said on Thursday, Nov 26, the first time answering questions from reporters since the election was called, “This [election] was a massive fraud,” repeating similar claims to the ones on his Twitter account. Politico reports that, despite the presidential election having been called and the senate race going to a runoff, he continually condemned the President-elect and held his ground on baseless accusations of electoral fraud.
President Trump also mentioned that the electoral college making Biden’s win official would be “a mistake”, and that Biden’s decision to pick an upcoming cabinet “isn’t right.”
On Georgia’s upcoming state election, he continued to make claims of fraud and doubt on the state’s electoral system, saying, “You have a fraudulent system,” according to Politico. President Trump went on to criticize Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as “an enemy of the people”, who had defended the state’s election.
President Trump’s conspiracy-like talk of Georgia’s state election has his followers feeling equally as concerned, but may have had an unintended effect. Politico reports that some Trump voters online are planning to boycott the election.
Online activity isn’t a significant indicator of widespread voter behavior, but more and more voices have joined the chorus over the last weeks, accusing Sen. Loeffler and Purdue of secretly being liberals or having been involved with electoral fraud. Despite the fact that both Loeffler and Purdue are both tightly linked with Trump and there is yet to be any sustainable proof of fraud across the country, some voters seem to be clinging to these theories.
In addition to the conspiracies and rhetoric circulating online, President Trump’s claims have sparked a series of threats and harassment to people like Georgia Secretary of State Raffensperger and his wife, workers at voting systems, and several government officials and assorted adjacent workers. An unnamed 20-year-old contractor at Dominion Voting Systems was even threatened with a noose outside of his house and accused of treason.
In an impassioned press conference on Tuesday, election official Gabriel Sterling said, “It has all gone too far.” He then addressed President Trump specifically, saying, “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed, and it’s not right … be the bigger man here.”
In the midst of these threats and fear stirring up, the state election still continues. The same workers and volunteers who got out the vote for the November election are working hard to persuade voters to participate in the senate runoff.
Georgia proved to be a historic race in the general election this year, electing a democratic presidential candidate for the first time in 28 years. “We’ve been trying to get here for the last 15 years,” said Deborah Scott, executive director of Georgia Stand Up, according to Vox.
Georgia Stand Up is just one of many nonprofits and community organizers working in civic engagement and local activism in Georgia. Groups like GA Stand Up and Stacey Abram’s Fair Fight were crucial in flipping Georgia’s vote this year. Several mainly black-led, community supported organizations did the hard work of fighting voter suppression and helping give Georgians a shot at a fair election.
One reason Georgia has been so consistently red in the past decades is the practice of gerrymandering by GA officials. Gerrymandering, or the purposeful redistricting to favor one party or candidate, deliberately deprives the votes of certain communities and districts. In the South, this action typically seeks to suppress the votes of communities of color and areas more saturated with democratic voters.
Deliberate misinformation and voter intimidation are other common tactics to suppress the vote, particularly in the South. Nse Ufot, CEO of the grassroots organization New Georgia Project, said, “We’re talking about, you know, millions of text messages, millions of phone calls. We knocked on nearly half a million doors in the middle of a pandemic, millions of impressions with our digital ad content that was designed to neutralize the disinformation and misinformation that black voters and brown voters are subject to,” according to the Hill.
While both Republican incumbents are favored in the polls, organizers and democrats are still staying hopeful. Martin Luther King III, cofounder of Win Both Seats, said, “This time we voted and we actually did it, which validates and gives people the inspiration to say … ‘we can do it again’”.
Featured Image(at top of post): Senate Chamber awaits incoming senators after runoff election(Photo credit: Wikipedia Commons)