Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock, left, and Jon Ossoff greet the crowd at a rally in Marietta, Ga. in November 2020. (Jenny Jarvie / Los Angeles Times)
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Everything you need to know about the Georgia runoffs

The presidential election of 2020 was, without a doubt, one of the most stressful and highly anticipated nights of the year. After many long weeks and contentions from the Republican Party, the next President of the United States has been named Joseph R. Biden. 

Now that the presidential election is over, all eyes in the political world have shifted to Georgia. On January 5, two runoff elections will occur that will determine which political party has control over the Senate.

One election is between incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue and Democrat Jon Ossoff. The other election is between Republican Kelly Loeffler and Democrat Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock.

If both runoff elections are won by Democrats, the majority in the Senate will be Democrats, giving the new president a powerful means to carry out his political agenda. However, if the Democrats do not win both elections, Republicans will have control over the Senate, giving them a strong influence over Biden’s plans.

Here’s everything you need to know:

What is a runoff election?

A runoff election is essentially a second election that is held when no candidate receives a simple majority of votes during the general election, according to Ballotpedia. The only states in the United States that have laws regarding runoff elections are Georgia and Louisiana, according to Ballotpedia. Under Georgia law, if a candidate does not get 50% or more votes, the top two candidates with the most votes then face off again in a runoff election.

Why are there two runoff elections in Georgia?

Senate elections are usually arranged in a way so that a state’s two seats are not up for reelection at the same time, but this year has been strange for Georgia. 

Republican Senator David Perdue had won the Georgia Senate seat in 2014 and was facing a normal re-election race, given that a Senate term is 6 years.

However, Senator Kelly Loeffler, another Republican, was appointed to succeed Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired due to health issues, according to the New York Times. Senator Loeffler was facing a special election to serve out the remainder of his term, which ends in 2022, according to the New York Times. 

In this case, both races went to runoffs because neither candidates nor their Democrat opponents received at least 50% of the vote, according to the New York Times. 

Why are the runoffs important to me? 

The Senate is one of the strongest ways for either political party to enforce political power as they see the best fit. Currently, the Republicans hold a 50-48 majority, according to the New York Times.

However, the outcome of the runoffs can change that. If Democrats win both seats, the Senate majority becomes 50-50, with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris breaking the tie to carry out a Democratic agenda. But if the Democrats lose even one of the runoffs, the Republican Party would hold their majority by the slimmest margin. 

There is so much at stake in this election. With judicial nominees, a stimulus deal, infrastructure, health care measures, the United States’ COVID-19 response, the economy, addressing racial inequity and tax and spending policies all on the line, the importance of this election cannot be understated.

These are issues that affect you, your family, your friends, your neighbors and your community every single day. This election isn’t just about the people of Georgia; it’s about every single American.

In 2020, we highlighted the issues that need to be solved in our society and the outcome of this election can determine just how effectively our government can solve those very issues.

What can I do to help?

Given the importance of these elections, it’s imperative that everyone does whatever they can to help. These include phone banking, donating, spreading the word, volunteering and doing essentially whatever you can to help the campaigns. 

To help out each of the candidates, check out the links below: 

Raphael Warnock (Democrat):

Kelly Loeffler (Republican):

Jon Ossoff (Democrat):

David Perdue (Republican):