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Why You Should Be Paying Attention to the Senate Runoff Races in Georgia

Though Joe Biden has officially been named President-elect of the United States, the election and the drama surrounding it, isn’t over yet. For one thing, President Trump has not officially conceded. In fact, the President and his legal team are blocking the Biden transition team’s efforts and alleging widespread voter fraud to sow doubt in the electoral process. It’s important to note that no fraud has been uncovered. In fact, Trump’s own Department of Homeland Security issued a statement stating that the 2020 election was “the most secure in American history.” 

Trump’s antics are troubling, not only because they mislead voters into thinking our system is compromised, but because he is receiving support from the likes of Republican Senators Lindsey Graham and Ted Cruz, and even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. With a majority in the senate, the Republicans pose a threat to the Biden administration’s hopes of implementing progressive policies. But all hope is not lost… yet. Two senate seats are still up for grabs in Georgia, as the candidates prepare for runoff races in January. While there has been a great deal of national media attention on Georgia, here are important factors to understand in preparation for this second election:

What is a runoff?

A runoff election is essentially a re-election to help determine the winner when the initial election did not meet the required standards of either candidate winning. In order to be declared the winner of an election in Georgia, one must receive at least 50% of the vote to win. None of of the candidates met that requirement on Election Day, so now voters will now have a chance to cast their votes again for the top two vote-getters. The two candidates with the most votes will be declared the winners and pick up those two Senate seats. 

Who are the candidates?

On one side of the ring, you have Senior Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue facing off against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. On the other, junior Sen. Kelly Loefller will duke it out against Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock. You may remember Loeffler, who was appointed to her Senate seat by Gov. Brian Kemp after the previous Senator retired, for the backlash she endured earlier this year after it was revealed she sold millions ofdollars worth of stocks in late January through mid-February, including transactions in shares later affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

When do the runoffs take place? 

Georgia law sets the date nine weeks after the general election. That means voters will have the chance to vote again on Tuesday, January 5, 2021. 

Why are the runoffs so important? 

Though Biden was named the winner of the presidency, Democrats had a rough time down the ticket in both the House and Senate; Republicans gained seats, and maintained their majority in the Senate. And while Biden ran on a promise to “reach across the aisle” and work with Republicans, it’s clear from their defense of Trump’s baseless voter fraud claims that sentiment isn’t shared. With the Affordable Care Act’s fate being decided in the Supreme Court, healthcare, a potential second COVID-19 stimulus relief bill and a host of other issues hang in the balance. The Biden Administration looks to not just reverse the impact of Trump’s presidency, but make progress on fighting climate change, protecting Roe v. Wade and more. With the Republicans in control of the Senate, that all is unlikely to happen. But if both Ossoff and Rev. Warnock prevail, that will bring the Senate to 50-50, making Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tie breaker. 

How you can get involved 

If you are registered to vote in Georgia, you can participate in these elections. Those who wish to vote by mail can request their absentee ballots now. The ballots will not be sent out in the mail until after November 18. If you requested your absentee for the general election and checked that you are either elderly, disabled or voting from overseas, you should receive your ballot automatically for the runoffs. Drop off boxes will be available again for voters to submit their ballots. 

Early voting for the Senate runoffs begins on December 14 and ends on January 1, 2021. To look for available hours and locations for polling places, keep an eye on the Secretary of State’s My Voter website. 

If you are not yet registered, no problem! The deadline to register to vote in Georgia is December 7. Even if you did not participate in the general election, you can still register now. To be a registered voter in Georgia, you must be: 

  • A citizen of the United States
  • A legal resident of the county
  • Be at least 17 ½ years of age to register, and 18 years of age to vote
  • Not be serving a sentence for a conviction of a felony involving moral turpitude (ex: rape, forgery, robbery or solicitation by prostitutes)
  • Have not been found mentally incompetent by a judge

If you are not registered to vote in Georgia and/or live elsewhere, you can still make an impact. Maybe you have friends or family who are registered in Georgia who didn’t participate in the general election. Talk to them, and encourage them to participate. Even if not, you can still get involved by spreading the word to your friends and followers on social media. You can also donate to both Ossoff’s and Warnock’s campaigns. As they say, money talks, and it’s time to send a message. There’s too much at stake. 

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