It all hinges on the outcome of the two U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, 2021. If each of the Democratic candidates in those contests, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Rafael Warnock, prevail, it would create a 50 – 50 tie in the U.S. Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris would then provide the tie-breaking vote. This would elevate a Democratic Senator into the position of Majority Leader.
Last April, during a joint appearance with Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), President-Elect Joe Biden not only committed to a $15/hour minimum wage but also vowed to become the most progressive President since Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Consistent with that vow, the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force produced a Plan [PDF] to "Combat the Climate Crisis and Pursue Environmental Justice" that, for all intents and purposes, could appropriately be labeled a Green New Deal. The President-Elect's science-based plan to combat COVID-19 entails a task that is essential to safely climb our way out of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression. These ambitious goals, combined with Biden's egalitarian plan to compel billionaires and mega-corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, portend to a future that entails a more just, empathetic and (small "d") democratic society.
Unfortunately, it is not enough to elect a President who is committed to such lofty goals and who maintains a desire to model his administration after the nation's only four-term President. FDR may have been the architect of the original New Deal, but it's doubtful that even he could have lifted this nation up from the depths of the Great Depression if, in the 1930s, Congress had been under the thumb of a reactionary obstructionist like Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY). That is why it is vital --- for the good of the nation and the world --- that when Biden takes office, he is greeted by a Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate.
The task ahead is daunting. However, in a state where Biden appears to have defeated Trump by more than 14,000 votes, the prospect for Democrats to control the Senate is certainly achievable. Here's how...
Money, Messaging and Transparency
Stacey Abrams, the former Democratic candidate for Governor in Georgia-turned voting rights activist, predicted that Democrats "would have the investment and resources" needed to win the runoffs. Within the first two days, she was able to raise $3.6 million, according to the U.K.'s Guardian --- a good start, but not nearly enough.
Warnock is accepting donations at his Senate campaign website and Ossoff is doing the same at his Senate campaign website. Fundraising could prove vital to ensuring that every Peach State citizen be fully informed of the compelling reasons why a perpetuation of McConnell's control over the U.S. Senate would, at best, create a gridlock that would prevent the enactment of the legislation needed to prevent economic and environmental devastation. Pinpoint messaging will be required that, for example, demolishes the false dichotomy between choosing to address the deadly threat posed by COVID and reopening the economy. In truth, as this author observed, with the concurrence of U.Mass.-Amherst Economics Professor Gerald Friedman, "defeating Covid is the key to restoring a functioning economy". We cannot achieve a return to economic security without addressing the measures necessary to fend off the deadly threat posed by the pandemic. Public health and a functioning economy go hand-in-hand.
The same may be said of the false dichotomy between the economy and responsible environmental policies. Indeed, the fastest growing sector of the economy can be found in renewable energy. Investing in the fossil fuel industry in the 21st century is akin to investing in buggy whips at the beginning of the 20th century.
Whether or not Ossoff and Warnock choose to label it as a "Green New Deal", both candidates would do well to stress their support for Biden's plan for bold government action to tackle climate change --- something that recent polls suggest is supported by over 70% of the electorate. Ninety-nine percent of the co-sponsors of the Green New Deal in the House were re-elected on Nov. 3.
It is important that the GA electorate, as urged by Brad Friedman and by election integrity advocate Marilyn Marks, "DEMAND" that the Jan. 5 runoffs be conducted on verifiable hand-marked paper ballots as opposed to vulnerable and unverifiable touchscreen Ballot Marking Devices (BMDs) made by Dominion Voting Systems. It's likely those demands would fail to persuade GA's Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger who selected the $100+ million systems against the advice of cybersecurity and voting systems experts alike. But, there's some prospect for success with respect to County Boards of Elections, which can eschew BMDs and utilize hand-marked paper ballots for all in-person voting if they choose.
Absentee and Early Voting
Given the dangers posed by COVID and the fact that, to date, most counties have ignored previous demands to eschew unverifiable BMDs under threat by the Secretary of State, the best course for Georgia voters is to cast a hand-marked absentee ballot.
Under the Peach State's applicable statutes, any voter registered in the state can cast an absentee ballot either by mail or in-person.
GA voters should not make the mistake of assuming that, because they cast an absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 election, they will automatically receive an absentee ballot for the 1/5/21 runoffs. With the exception of voters who are over the age of 75, all GA voters who desire to cast an absentee ballot during the runoff must make a new request for an absentee ballot.
If a voter's registration information is linked to their driver's license number, they can directly apply for an absentee ballot at the state's ballot request website. All eligible voters can also print out an absentee ballot request form that is available at the Secretary of State's website. The site notes that the "applications can be returned by mail, fax, email (as an attachment), or in-person to the local County Board of Registrar’s Office." (Given time constraints and recent slowdowns at the U.S. Postal Service, fax, email attachment or in-person drop-off is advisable for such appolications.)
Early voting for the GA U.S. Senate runoff election will commence on Dec. 14, 2020 and end on Jan. 1, 2021. Per the Secretary of State's Absentee Voter's Guide, in-person, early absentee voting is also available during the period that early voting is available. The site advises to "visit your county or municipality early voting site, fill out the application, and present one of the permitted forms of photo ID." An applicable provision of GA's Election Statute authorizes the ballot clerk to provide the elector with an absentee ballot at that time or by mail in accordance with the elector's request. If immediately provided, the ballot must be completed in the registrar's office. Thus, every eligible in-person early voter can avoid utilizing unverifiable BMDs by asking the ballot clerk to provide them with a hand-marked paper absentee ballot.
Voter Registration and GOTV
There are approximately 23,000 Georgia residents who are over the age of 17 1/2 but will turn 18 on or before Jan. 5, 2021. They will be eligible to vote in the upcoming U.S. Senate runoff elections. To secure that right, they must register to vote no later than Dec. 7. That age group, which is especially motivated by climate change, skews Democratic, particularly amongst young people of color who voted overwhelmingly for Biden.
There are multiple organizations listed by GoVote Georgia that are, undoubtedly, acutely aware of those demographics and who will likely work tirelessly to expand upon the record Nov. 3 turnout.
This may be one of the most important election days in our nation's history. Our future --- and that of our children and grandchildren --- depends on providing our newly elected President with a Democratic-controlled Senate.