While the rest of the nation is either exploding or breathing a sigh of relief at the results of the November election, the state of Georgia is gearing up for another round of political battle. Voters in that state had best get ready.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize what’s coming yet,” said Georgia political activist Gloria Moore, a Black woman who campaigned hard for former Vice President Joe Biden in the months leading up to his successful election. “It was hard to focus on everything when it was so critical to get Biden in the White House. People now have to take a break. They’re going to celebrate tonight, but then Monday or Tuesday we need to say, ‘Hey, look what Georgia can do,’ and I think people will step up.”
Georgia can do a lot, apparently. Activists like Moore pushed the routinely red state into the Democrats’ column this year. Biden walked away with a 10,000-vote lead over his Republican opponent Nov. 5, and his lead still grows as more votes trickle in. Biden’s advantage widened as early vote tallies rolled in from heavily populated (and heavily Black) Atlanta and Savannah districts. Many of these crucial votes came from newly registered African American voters who were whipped into a fury by recent politics and a ferocious GOTV effort on behalf of activists like Moore and former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Abrams never conceded the race she lost to Republican Brian Kemp, chiefly because Kemp maliciously threw countless Black Georgians off the rolls as Secretary of State. After Abrams lost her bid, she was a virtual shoe-in as a Senate candidate, but Abrams declined to run and instead dedicated herself to registering as many new voters as she could in the years leading up to the 2020 election. Abrams’ organizations, including Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project, registered almost one million new voters this year with the help of countless activists.
While successfully cleaning the White House, Democrats had also been hoping to grab control of the Senate. Politicos predict Senate leader Mitch McConnel will block most of the popular initiatives President Biden will champion over the next four years. The two Senate races now underway in Georgia will determine if Biden can effectively push a slightly more progressive agenda that his voters demand or have it stalled under McConnell. Democrat Raphael Warnock is squaring off against incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the Jan. 5 runoffs, and Democrat Jon Ossoff is challenging GOP Sen. David Perdue.
Abrams already knows this, of course, and was gearing up for battle as soon as the election was called for Biden.
“GEORGIA: The January 5 runoff elections for control of the U.S. Senate are fast approaching. Make your voice heard by requesting your ballot now at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov,” Abrams announced on Twitter. She later added that her campaign had already “raised $6 million so far to help jumpstart the Jan 5 Senate runoff elections,” and asked the public to “keep up the momentum by donating at http://GAsenate.com.”
Abrams is driven, but the Georgia GOP is hopeful about its chances in the upcoming runoff because the Republican Party has dominated every run-off fight since the early 1990s. Run-off races traditionally attract only a fraction of voters because nobody pays attention to what happens in U.S. Senate races without a presidential lead.
Georgia activist and GOTV warrior Jessica Weinstein says the tendency toward low voter turnout in a context like this one needs to change this year with the Senate in the balance. Biden can’t govern with a McConnell Senate acting as a brick wall, and she said she hopes the energy that Democrats stirred among new voters will carry into the runoff.
“I really think we’re going to pull it off and change the Senate,” said Weinstein, who works with the Georgia branch of the Women for Biden campaign. “Everybody is excited and rallied and ready to go and even today (Nov. 4) I had gotten at least 40 messages saying ‘What can I do? I am ready to do this.’ … I was Messaging with the Women for Biden, and I’d already reached out to (John’s Ossoff’s) and (Raphael Warlock’s) campaign, and we’re starting an on-the-ground movement on Monday (Nov. 10). Black women really want this election in Georgia.”
Moore and Weinstein said they intend to maintain pre-Election Day energy among voters by reminding voters of all the things that will inevitably die under a McConnel Senate, such as voting rights, Obamacare, an overdue national minimum wage increase and other popular progressive issues.
The enthusiasm could not come at a better time with the legitimacy of the election under attack. Perdue and Loeffler both blasted the election that failed to deliver them a clean win, calling it an “embarrassment” that was choked with “problems.”
“There have been too many failures in Georgia elections this year and the most recent election has shined a national light on the problems,” Loeffler and Perdue said in a statement that implied Biden’s win was illegitimate.
So far, the two candidates have offered no evidence of the failures.” They even demanded the Republican Secretary of State “step down immediately” because he “failed to deliver honest and transparent elections,” and “failed the people of Georgia,” again, without a shred of evidence.
Perdue and Loeffler’s attacks on democracy are in line with roughly 70 percent of Republicans who also don’t think the election was free and fair, after their preferred candidate lost.
Deadlines are fast approaching, and it is definitely time to ramp up voter registration, despite recent victories. December 7 is the voter registration deadline to vote in Georgia’s federal runoff election and November 18 is the earliest day for a registrar to mail an absentee ballot for the general election runoff. Other dates include December 14, which is the beginning date for advanced in-person or early voting for the general election, while January 5, 2021, is the actual day of the federal runoff election.
“We’re going to focus on registering new voters by Dec. 7. That’s a nice little chunk of time,” said Moore. “That’s one of the good things you can do online in Georgia: Register to vote and apply for an absentee ballot.”
If you live in Georgia and you’re still not yet registered to vote, we at the Lighthouse do not know how you managed to avoid it. Regardless, please visit the Georgia Secretary of State’s website at https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov/GAOLVR/welcometoga.do#no-back-button and register online right now. The election isn’t over, despite everything you might’ve heard, and all that dancing and crying in the streets. Your fight has only just begun.