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Georgia voters will be bombarded, whether it be Twitter messages, robocalls or the more than $ 100 million TV commercials they will see between now and January 5th. It is when Georgia’s two Republican senators face Democratic challengers in two outflows that will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate.
Money and agents are flooding the state to get out of the poll.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott of neighboring Florida paid for an attack ad showing Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer from election night and said “Now we take Georgia, then we change America!” Scott then warns “Georgia, do not let these radicals change America.”
A number of powerful GOP characters are trying to help the established Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue. Neither got more than 50% of the total election, which resulted in a runoff against Democratic challengers.
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Loeffler faces Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Perdue is against Jon Ossoff, who gained national attention in a special congressional election in 2017 and nearly turned a seat long under Republican control.
The runoff is another reason Georgia is in the national political focus. A hand revenge in the presidential election that is complete and awaits official certification for Democrat Joe Biden. President Trump has attacked Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State and Government Brian Kemp over the count. Meanwhile, Democrats 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 the state by about 5 percentage points. The results in 2020 show a more diverse and younger voter changing the political landscape.
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‘To ensure that our voices are heard’
“Welcome students to 2020 Headquarters,” says 17-year-old Edward Aguilar as he walks under colorful string lights in a friend’s backyard in Alpharetta. This is the temporary office of the group that developed an algorithm for college students to determine where their voice matters most – in their hometowns, or where they go to school.
Now they call themselves students for tomorrow, they change gears for the runoff.
“We founded this organization because we want our interests to be represented in government,” said Aguilar, CEO. “We want to make sure our voices are heard.”
They support Democrat Jon Ossoff as Senate, in part because of his age. He is 33. Tonight, the mission is to refine scripts for problem-focused phone collection.
Michael Giusto says the calls should start from common ground. He suggests a template.
“Hi, we’re students until tomorrow,” he says as if making a complaint call. “We’re trying to get students’ ideas to the office, and we’ve called other students to make sure their ideas are represented.”
Giusto turned 18 after the parliamentary elections, but can now vote in the run-off and wants to persuade others to join him and sign up before the deadline of 7 December.
It is estimated that more than 20,000 potential voters will have turned 18 between the parliamentary election and the runoff, according to the Civics Center, a youth engagement group.
But Edward Aguilar says that is not enough to even out the difference between Perdue and Ossoff, who were down by more than 80,000 votes.
“I feel the only way Ossoff can really win is to bring voters from the other side over,” Aguilar said.
‘Engaging young voters’
So they will try to dig deep and tap issues that resonate with young Perdue voters – for example, the economy – and explain how Ossoff’s policies can fit.
Aguilar sees momentum from parliamentary elections in terms of engaging young voters.
“What is exciting about right now is that we are just as absolutely historically voting,” he says.
In Georgia, approx. 20% of the votes cast by voters aged 18 to 29 years.
The figures reflect record participation both nationally and in Georgia, a state that moved firmly from a given-given-given Republican stronghold to a captive battlefield area in 2020.
Now with control of the Senate on the line, the attention is even more intense.
Other groups are also making a joint effort to create turnout. When We All Vote uses social media and games like Among us and Kahoot! to share information on how to sign up or how to request an absentee ballot, says Tiffany Pham, a 16-year-old student activist from Clayton County, Ga.
“I think it’s really important to equip the next generation with the most important tool, which is their voice,” says Pham. “Historically, in our country we have always been considered the apathetic generation who do not care. And that is simply not true.”
This weekend, Black Voters Matter launches a “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop” bus tour in Georgia.
And Republicans are working just as hard to keep their voters engaged.
GOP senators ‘have a very delicate balance’
A key message is to keep the Senate in GOP hands.
“From the Republican perspective, a lot of people see this as a firewall,” said attorney Jake Evans, president of the Georgia chapter of the Republican National Lawyers Association and former president of the Atlanta Young Republicans.
But talking about a firewall is difficult for GOP senators, Evans says, because it recognizes Biden as the president-elect when Trump still disputes the outcome in Georgia and elsewhere.
“They have a very delicate balance,” Evans says. “They have to weigh Trump supporters in the face of the fact that he is unlikely to become president on January 21, 2021.”
Republicans have historically performed well in outflows that tend to have lower turnout. Even in this elevated atmosphere, Evans says the GOP has the advantage.
“I do not think Democrats have Darth Vader at the top of the ticket – who is Donald Trump – to increase their turnout,” Evans said. “You had a lot of first-time voters in metro Atlanta who really showed up for the polls for a reason, and that was to vote against Donald Trump.”
But no Trump on the ticket could also work against Republicans, and some have suggested that attacks on Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger are part of a strategy to keep the base fired. Both Loeffler and Perdue called for his resignation.
Some have speculated that political agents could come here and sign up to vote in the January runoff. Georgia poll leader Gabriel Sterling says it would be a crime.
“If you want to move to Georgia and be part of the No. 1 state in America to do business, we are happy to have you,” Sterling says. “But if you’re here just for the sake of politics – do not play our system.”
Early voting in Georgia’s Senate runoff begins on December 14.
Emma Peaslee is NPR’s Kroc Fellow.