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Voters in Georgia have been bombarded, whether with Twitter messages, phone calls or TV commercials worth more than $ 100 million, which will be watched between January 5th and 5th. Then the two Republican senators in Georgia will face democratic contenders in a double runoff, which will determine which party controls the US Senate.
Money and operatives flood the state to vote.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of neighboring Florida paid for an ad for an attack in which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on election night, “Now we’re taking Georgia, then we’re changing America!” Scott then warned “Georgia, don’t let these radicals change America.”
Many powerful Republican figures are trying to help the current Kelly Lofler and David Purdue. Neither won more than 50% of the general election, leading to a run-off against the Democratic contenders.
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Löfler confronts Raphael Warnock, pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. Perdue is against John Osoff, who won national attention in the 2017 congressional election, nearly turning a long place in Republican control.
The run-off is another reason why Georgia is in the spotlight. The rent of the presidential election there is full and he is waiting for an official certificate for the Democrat Joe Biden. President Trump attacked Republican Secretary of State and Gov. Brian Kemp for the census. Democrats, meanwhile, are working to maintain enthusiasm after Biden’s victory.
The state has added more than a million new registered voters since 2016, when Trump took over the state by about 5 percentage points. The results in 2020 show a more diverse and younger electorate that is changing the political landscape.
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“To make sure our voices are heard”
“Welcome to Students for Headquarters 2020,” says 17-year-old Edward Aguilar as he walks under colorful strings in a friend’s backyard in Alpharetta. This is the makeshift office for the group that developed the algorithm for students to determine where their voice matters most – in their hometowns or where they go to school.
Now called Students for Tomorrow, they shift gears for the runoff.
“We founded this organization because we want our interests to be represented in government,” said Aguilar, executive director. “We want to make sure our voices are heard.”
They support Democrat John Osoff for the Senate, in part because of his age. He is 33. Tonight’s mission is to refine the scripts to focus on the phone’s problems.
Michael Justo says that conversations should start with the general. It offers a template.
“Hey, we’re students for tomorrow,” he says, as if making a phone call. “We try to bring student ideas into the office and call other students to make sure their ideas are presented.”
Justo is 18 years old after the general election, but can now vote in the runoff and wants to persuade others to join him and register by the December 7 deadline.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 potential voters will turn 18 between the general election and the runoff, according to the Center for Civic Interests, a youth engagement group.
But Edward Aguilar says that is not enough to make up for the difference between Purdue and Osof, who had more than 80,000 votes.
“I feel that the only way Osof can really win is to attract voters from the other side,” Aguilar said.
Engaging young voters
In this way, they will try to explore deeply, eavesdropping on issues that resonate with Perdue’s young voters – the economy, for example – and explain how Ossoff’s policies can fit.
Aguilar sees momentum in the general election in terms of engaging young voters.
“The exciting thing right now is that we’ve just seen absolutely historic activity,” he said.
In Georgia, about 20% of ballots were cast by voters between the ages of 18 and 29.
The figures reflect record turnout both nationally and in Georgia, a country that has moved firmly from a given republican stronghold to courted battlefield territory in 2020.
Now with Senate line control, the focus is even more intense.
Other groups are also making concerted efforts to increase turnout. When we all vote we use social media and games like Among us and Kahoot! to share information on how to register or how to request an absentee vote, says Tiffany Pham, a 16-year-old student activist from Clayton County, Georgia.
“I think it’s really important to equip the next generation with the most important tool, which is their voice,” Pham said. “Historically, in our country, we have always been perceived as an apathetic generation that doesn’t really care. And that’s just not true.”
This weekend Black Voters Matter starts a bus tour “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” in Georgia.
Republicans are working just as hard to engage their constituents.
GOP senators “have a very delicate balance”
A key message is holding the Senate in the hands of the GOP.
“From a Republican perspective, a lot of people look at it as a firewall,” said attorney Jake Evans, chairman of Georgia’s Republican Bar Association and former president of the Young Republicans in Atlanta.
But talking about a firewall is difficult for Republican senators, Evans says, because it recognizes Biden as president-elect when Trump is still challenging the outcome in Georgia and elsewhere.
“They have a very delicate balance,” Evans said. “They have to balance with Trump’s supporters in reality that he is unlikely to be president on January 21, 2021.”
Republicans did well in the runoff, which usually has lower deviations. Even in this heightened atmosphere, Evans says GOP has the advantage.
“I don’t think Democrats have Darth Vader at the top of the ticket – who’s Donald Trump – to boost their turnout,” Evans said. “You had a lot of first-time Atlanta subway voters who did show up at the polls for one reason, and that was to vote against Donald Trump.”
But no Trump on the ticket could work against Republicans, and some have suggested that attacks on Republican Secretary of State Brad Rafensperger are part of a strategy to preserve the base. Both Löfler and Perdu called for his resignation.
Some speculate that political operatives may come here and register to vote in the runoff in January. Georgia Voting Implementation Manager Gabriel Sterling says it would be a serious crime.
“If you want to move to Georgia and become part of the number one country in America to do business, we are happy to have you,” Sterling said. “But if you’re only here for politics – don’t play our system.”
Early voting in Georgia’s Senate runoff begins on December 14.
Emma Pizley is a Kroc NPR Fellow.