Government

Georgia’s Runoff Elections: What They Mean and How They Can Affect the Coming Years

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Key Questions to Consider

The election is over. Joe Biden was declared the winner of the presidential election by the Electoral College just a few weeks ago. So why are people still buzzing about the election over a month after Election Day and just under a month before Inauguration Day? Well, let me introduce you to Georgia and its special runoff elections, which will take place on January 5th, 2021.

What exactly is a runoff election, and how does it differ from a general election?

In a runoff election, which occurs when no candidate receives a majority of the votes, two candidates from the candidate pool with the most votes in the general election go through another election where they are the only candidates, essentially consolidating the stray votes that were cast for other candidates earlier. There are two elections that have gone into a runoff; the first is the regular Georgia Senate election between incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue against the Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, and the second is a special Georgia Senate election to replace the seat of former senator Johnny Isakson between incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler and the Democratic challenger, the Rev. Raphael Warnock. Now, you might be wondering, “wait a minute…isn’t that just a race for the Senate?” Well, the answer to that is yes, but it is more than “just a race” for the Senate, and there is a real reason that both of these Senate races in Georgia have garnered an immense amount of attention from all corners of the nation.

Why are people from all over the nation focused on these elections in particular?

As it stands right now, the Democratic Party has maintained control of the House of Representatives, and gained control of the presidency through Joe Biden. In the Senate, however, the Republican Party has a 50-48 lead, with these two races to still be accounted for. If you do the math, there could be a theoretical 50-50 tie in the Senate, that would only happen if both Democratic candidates win their races over the two Republican incumbents in Georgia. What happens when there is a 50-50 tie in the Senate? Well, the President of the Senate, or the Vice President of the United States, would cast the deciding vote to break the tie and give one party the majority, and that would be Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris’ vote when the incoming 117th Congress convenes from Inauguration Day onwards. As she would cast her vote for the Democratic Party, they would gain control of the Senate and establish the first Democratic political trifecta (an event where one party controls the executive branch and both houses of the legislative branch) since 2011.

This brings up another question for voters on both sides of the aisle: How does this Senate election affect Joe Biden, since he has already won the presidency? Let’s go back to the age-old term of checks and balances, something we have heard ever since our social studies days in elementary school. Checks and balances are a system of regulation that are meant to prevent one branch of government from holding a tyrannical amount of power that could potentially usurp the fundamentals of the longest-standing democracy. Based on the results of the elections in Georgia, which would determine the majority in the next Senate, Biden’s authority could either be heightened or constrained, obviously within legal limits. With a Democratic majority, Biden’s policies and ideals can materialize into legislation and pass easily through Congress. However, with a Republican majority, the opposite would happen, as the Senate would look to either stall or compromise on Biden’s agenda.

What is the significance of the runoff elections in the long-term?

Image by Heritage Action for America via https://heritageaction.com/toolkit/georgia-resources

This may be the most important question that we encounter throughout the duration of this ordeal. In the aftermath of an election where we saw a record turnout of voters in the middle of a devastating pandemic, many Georgians would likely be wary of going out to vote in this special election and putting themselves at risk. However, this is a crucial point in America’s political history, and the stakes of these two elections are as high as they could possibly be. The legislation passed in the next two to four years will be a pivotal period in which the political agenda of the nation could dramatically shift, as the two main parties show signs of rapidly increasing hyperpolarization, with little compromise on crucial issues. These two Senate elections will have a sizable domino effect on America for years to come. To conclude, for anyone who is an eligible voter in Georgia (anyone who turns 18 by January 5th and is a citizen living in the state of Georgia), your votes in this Senate election carry a substantial weight on the future of this nation. You can register to vote in Georgia’s upcoming election here. You can also request an absentee ballot here and find where to vote here.

TL;DR

  • On Election Day, both Senate races in Georgia ended with no candidate having a majority of the votes, triggering a runoff election.
  • A runoff election is a special type of election in which the two remaining candidates from the candidate pool with the most votes in the general election undergo another election where they are the only candidates, essentially consolidating the stray votes that were cast for other candidates earlier.
  • The significance of this runoff election is in the fact that both Senate races in Georgia became runoff elections, and with the current 50-48 Republican lead in the Senate over the Democrats/Independents, the power of the legislature, and consequently the president, are in the balance.
  • With good reason, many galvanized elected officials and well-known politicians from both sides of the aisle are concentrating the remainder of their efforts in this election cycle on Georgia’s runoff elections, as the results on January 5th will determine the shift in power for many years to come.

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