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'They Know Their Vote Matters': The Georgia Senate Runoffs Battle Is Already On
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=51889"><span class="small">Chris McGreal, Guardian UK</span></a>   
Sunday, 15 November 2020 09:25

McGreal writes: "Donald Trump may have forced a recount of the votes in Georgia that helped end his presidency, but the activists who organized the surge in turnout that helped defeat him have already turned their attention to two elections that will decide who controls the US Senate and the course of Joe Biden's presidency."

Voters at a polling precinct. (photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)
Voters at a polling precinct. (photo: Jessica McGowan/Getty Images)

'They Know Their Vote Matters': The Georgia Senate Runoffs Battle Is Already On

By Chris McGreal, Guardian UK

15 November 20

Trump’s defeat in the reliably red state has shown Democratic voters the power of their ballot, activists say as they focus on Ossoff and Warnock’s races

onald Trump may have forced a recount of the votes in Georgia that helped end his presidency, but the activists who organised the surge in turnout that helped defeat him have already turned their attention to two elections that will decide who controls the US Senate and the course of Joe Biden’s presidency.

Tens of millions of dollars are pouring in to the Georgia runoff races, which can be expected to draw Biden back to the campaign trail as voters have the opportunity to make history by defeating the state’s two Republican senators to give the new president control of both houses of Congress.

Traditionally, turnout has been low for runoff elections and that has favoured Republicans. But the presidential race in Georgia has already turned conventional political wisdom on its head. A concerted get out the vote campaign over recent years, combined with a surge of political engagement by younger people over demands for racial justice, narrowly swung the state for Biden.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter in Atlanta, expects the Senate runoffs to also be close and the result to hang on turnout. He said that Trump’s defeat in Georgia has shown Democratic voters the power of their ballot in what was once a Republican stronghold, and he will use that to keep them engaged with the Senate elections.

“Black voters in particular really had an impact on this race. There’s some black voters that may not have believed in their power to flip this state, but now they believe and so there’s even more voters that can motivated to come out. Because now more than ever, they know that their vote matters, that they’ve got power. So there’s all that momentum,” he said.

Democrats are mobilising support for two very different candidates. The Rev Raphael Warnock is pastor of Atlanta’s renowned Ebenezer Baptist church where Martin Luther King preached in the 1960s. If he wins, Warnock would be the first black US senator from Georgia.

“I think Warnock’s going to drive the turnout,” said Joshua Meddaugh, chair of the social sciences department at Clayton State University, a mostly black college in metro Atlanta. “He is a monster candidate. He is incredibly well liked. He is charming and well received and an easy person to get behind. There are going to be some of those moderate Republicans, maybe some of those religious values Republicans, that he’ll be able to draw.”

On the other hand, Meddaugh expects Warnock’s opponent, the sitting Republican senator Kelly Loeffler, to struggle because of her loyalty to Trump and association with conspiracy theory groups such as QAnon.

Still, it’s likely to be close. Warnock came out on top last week with 33% of the vote. Loeffler took 26%. If the votes for rival Democrats and Republicans among the 18 other contenders on that ballot go to their respective parties in the runoff they each win about 49% with the balance of Libertarian, Green and independent voters up in the air.

In the parallel race, Democrat Jon Ossoff came close to removing the incumbent Republican, David Perdue, who fell just short of an outright win with 49.7%. Ossoff took 48% with the difference won by a Libertarian party candidate who now drops out of the race.

Ossoff lacks Warnock’s charisma but proved effective at rattling Perdue during a debate before the first election over his refusal to take coronavirus seriously and because he is under federal investigation for insider trading. Perdue refused to attend a second debate.

Activists who spent months and years getting out the vote in Georgia credit Stacey Abrams, the former candidate who many in the state believe was robbed of victory in the election for governor two years ago by Republican voter suppression, with mobilising a cadre of voters that paid off for Biden including in middle-class suburbs and among young people.

Helen Butler, leader of the Georgia Coalition for the People’s Agenda, said a surge in younger voters was significant in deciding the presidential election in Georgia.
“We targeted young people, 18 to 35, to make sure they turned out and by all of the information we have thus far, it shows that their demographics turned in record numbers,” she said.

Butler attributed the increased turnout in part to the surge in Black Lives Matter protests following the killing of George Floyd by the police in Minneapolis in May.
“For the young people, it was a driving factor because they now understand that if you’re going to have great policing policy, if you’re going to have the right people employed, that those positions are elected. Your judges, your district attorneys, your sheriffs, and your mayors who appoint the police chiefs. They understand that getting people who understand their situations will assist in making the change that they want to do,” she said.

Albright said his organisation will focus on specific policies, not the broad issue of giving Biden a Democratic-run Senate.

“It can’t just be about we want to control the Senate. Somebody who’s not engaged is going to ask why they should care about that. We have got to say we’ve got to control the Senate because healthcare is on the line, because the Voting Rights Act is on the line, because racial justice and whether or not police officers and district attorneys are able to continue to get qualified immunity when they kill black folks, that’s on the line,” he said.

Butler gave the example of the supreme court hearing that could see the end Obamacare and rob low-income families of affordable health coverage. “That will definitely be on people’s mind. If the court should overturn the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, a lot of people will lose coverage. They’ll lose protection for pre-existing conditions and young folks won’t be able to stay on their parent’s insurance plans until 26,” she said.

Becky Butler, who leads Necessary Trouble, a name that plays on the late Georgia congressman John Lewis’s mantra to cause “good trouble”, said a large increase in absentee balloting played an important part in swinging Georgia against Trump and that she will focus on encouraging those who voted before to immediately register to vote by mail again.

“We go for especially those counties that are rich in Democrats that are deeply, deeply blue. And we do our best to make sure that those frequent voters are hit, and also that we try even harder to engage the infrequent voters, which is what Stacey Abrams taught us,” she said.

Meddaugh said that runoff races usually favour Republicans but this could be different. “You’re going to hear a lot of energy and positivity coming from the left and that we have a chance here to flip the Senate and we have two strong candidates. What that does usually when there’s one side that’s so energised, it actually de-energises the other side. Maybe some Trump supporters were pretty bummed that they didn’t win so they’re not going to come out again. That’s pretty common,” he said.

For all that, Albright worries that Republicans still have one advantage through their control of Georgia statewide offices: the ability to suppress voter turnout and effectively rig the election.

“We need to be very much on the lookout for voter suppression now that the Republicans have seen what our power looks likes,” he said. “My suspicion is that we’re going to see an increase so we are going to be vigilant about that over the next over the next couple of months.” your social media marketing partner