Georgia Voters Determine Senate Control In Historic Election
By: Susanna Conway
Photo by: Biden For President
On November 3, 2020, the day of the general election, none of the candidates running for the two contested senate seats in Georgia received at least 50% of the casted votes, requiring the top-performing candidates of both races to compete in a runoff election. Normally, this would be a state-wide issue, prompting the attention of a handful of Georgians who wanted to have their voices heard. This year, however, was different.
Over the past six years, the Republican party has held control of the US Senate, offering a clear advantage to President Trump, who has been able to successfully nominate three Supreme Court justices and avoid removal from office with the help of his Republican colleagues. Throughout the past four years, Democrats have been fighting for the chance to take back the Presidency, and on November 7, that dream came true. With 306 electoral votes, Democratic candidate Joe Biden became the nation’s next President, defeating incumbent President Donald Trump. Along with the Presidency, Democrats had hoped to pick up a few extra Senate seats to ensure that Mr. Biden had a clear path to pass legislation, make appointments, and reverse the opinionated damage of the former White House. This, however, did not appear to be realistic. After devastating losses in states projected to elect Democratic senators, control of the Senate appeared out of reach for the Democratic party. That is, until the announcement of the Georgia runoffs.
Georgia, which for over 20 years has consistently voted for Republican candidates, had voted with a Democratic majority in the Presidental election, giving all 16 of its electoral votes to Joe Biden. This surprising change in voter turnout and partisanship gave hope to the Democratic party. With almost all contested senate seats decided on election night, the US Senate was divided 50 to 48, holding a Republican advantage. This situation meant that the upcoming Georgia elections would determine the ultimate control of the US Senate. If the Republicans picked up even one of the Georgia seats, Senate control would be theirs, meaning that Democrats would have to defeat both incumbent Republican senators. This circumstance would give the chamber a 50-50 divide, transferring the ultimate tie-breaker vote to the Vice-President. Because the vice-president would soon be Democratic, this would give the Democrats the majority. This chance of a Democratic Senate prompted nation-wide focus and determination to turn out Georgia voters.
In the first Senate race, Republican incumbent David Purdue would face-off against the aspiring politician and Democrat Jon Ossoff, who had never held a public office seat. Perdue had just finished his first term as a Georgia Senator and was seeking re-election. The second race showed Democratic Reverend Raphael Warnock challenging incumbent Republican Kelly Loeffler, who had been appointed to the Senate in January 2020 after the previous Senator stepped down. Close polling numbers in the general election made both sides determined to elect their candidates. Because of the nation-wide effects that this election would have, canvassers and political admirers from across the country joined together to make calls and knock doors for their campaigns in hopes of turning out Georgians that would vote in their favor. Native Georgians, such as Stacy Abrams, sought to bring out Democratic voters, registering an estimated 800,000 new voters to vote in this election across the state. By January 5, the date of this prestigious election, the country was desperate to know who would win these elections, and therefore take control of the US Senate.
By the time the polls closed on January 5, the pending results remained uncertain. As votes continued to be counted across the state, leading candidates remained in a close margin, with neither side gaining a significant lead. Finally, in the final hours of election night, Rev. Raphael Warnock was projected to defeat Kelly Loeffler, gathering a nearly 100,000 vote lead. The other race, however, was still uncertain. Just when Democrats had begun to give up hope, votes from Fulton County, a predominantly democratic area, began pouring in, giving Jon Ossoff the necessary ballots to defeat David Perdue. After six years of Republican dominance, the Democratic party had finally shifted control of the Senate, giving the party a significant advantage over the next two years. Additionally, the historically red state of Georgia surprisingly flipped blue, with the accreditation of large African-American and young voter turnout. Over the next few years, the eyes of the nation will lie on Georgia, as the state’s political dominance will continue to be a subject of hope and controversy.