Georgia Runoff Race Could Turn the Tides in the Senate


The runoff race in Georgia will determine which party has control of the U.S. Senate. (Courtesy of Twitter)

The Georgia runoff race will determine which party has control of the Senate, but it is difficult to say who will win. History has shown runoff races to favor Republicans; however, the voter enthusiasm that brought so many blue voters to the polls on Nov. 3 doesn’t seem to be dwindling. Whichever way it goes, the race will have a major effect on U.S. policy for the next few years. 

A runoff election occurs when no candidates meet the criteria to win an election. In Georgia, candidates must receive more than 50%of the votes in order to win. In the case that this criteria is not met, the top two candidates must run again in a runoff. This law was enacted in the 1960s and appeared to suppress Black voters, who had lower turnout at runoff elections. 

This year there were two Senate races in Georgia, and none of the candidates met the criteria, meaning that there will be two elections in the runoff: incumbent Senators David Perdue (R) and Kelly Loeflerr (R) will be running against Jon Ossof (D) and Raphael Warnock (D), respectively, on Jan. 5. 

This election is crucial because if Democrats win both Georgia races, the Senate will be tied and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will be the deciding vote. In that case, Democrats would have control over Congress, allowing Joe Biden to quickly push a number of progressive policies that would otherwise be overridden by a Republican majority. 

History predicts that the Republican candidates are going to win this runoff election. Democrats have only won seven runoffs in Georgia since the ’90s due to the difficulty of convincing voters, especially working people, to come out and vote again. Additionally, Republicans have historically reserved more funds for runoffs. 

This year, over $120 million has been put into this election, a number that is likely to double by Jan. 5. So far, the Republican candidates have reserved more than their Democratic counterparts, but because this election is so crucial on the national level money is pouring in from around the country. While there are predictions for who the winners will be, this election year has been anything but expected, and there are many factors that could secure a victory for the Democratic candidates. 

Securing voter turnout at runoff elections in Georgia has been a problem for the Democratic Party in the past, but with mail-in voting and voter enthusiasm, we could see a higher Democrat turnout. Additionally, those who will turn 18 by Dec. 17 are eligible to vote in the runoff — about 20,000 potential voters fall in this category. 

Georgia voters can vote by mail upon request, a crucial option that was not offered to people who could not make it to the polls in previous runoff elections. Mail-in ballots provide more flexibility with when people can vote, as long as they request a ballot on time. 

Additionally, this election has seen a historic amount of voter enthusiasm with higher voter turnout than ever before. With President Trump still refusing to concede and the media still largely dominated by election coverage, the election is far from old news. Because all eyes are now on Georgia, it is possible that the voter turnout will be higher than usual. 

History tells us that the Republican candidates will secure a win; however, the unusual circumstances surrounding this year’s elections could lead to another outcome. Ultimately, only time will tell in this runoff election. Whichever direction it goes, the national consequences will be immense. 

If you are eligible to vote in Georgia, you can register here by Dec. 7.  

Ava Erickson, FCRH ’23, is a journalism major from Denver, Colo.