On January 5, Georgia will hold two runoff elections to decide whether Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler get to keep their seats or if Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock will be going to the Senate in 2021. The elections are of national interest due to the current composition of the Senate: fifty seats are held by Republicans, while 48 are held by Democrats. Should Democrats Ossoff and Warnock secure Senate seats, the tie-breaking vote in the Senate falls to the Vice President.
Of course, that would be Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, a Democrat. So, if both Loeffler and Perdue fail to secure reelection, Democrats will assume control of the Senate and White House in January while maintaining their hold on the House of Representatives, opening the way for President-elect Joe Biden’s agenda.
While election day hasn’t rolled around yet, early voting has seen record-breaking turnout in Georgia. Some 2.3 million votes have already been cast, with many of them coming from Black voters in historically Democratic regions. The strong early performance is a good sign for Democrats, who often suffer more heavily from voter drop-off in runoff races compared to general elections.
In fact, part of the reason Georgia adopted the runoff strategy was as a way to push tight elections down the line and make it less likely that Democrats could win in general elections, when turnout was higher. This time, however, this strategy allowed Democrats more time to impress the importance of the situation on their likely voter base.
A robust “get out the vote” program in Georgia helped to mobilize the Democratic voter base in November, leading to the state’s votes going for Joe Biden. This was the first time in decades that Georgia had gone for a Democrat. Pundits noted this shows that changing demographics, as well as a highly effective voter mobilization program, can make even Deep South states go for Democrats.
Political scientists have noted that, in the 21st Century, Republicans have remained unpopular on a national level. Typically, Republican candidates perform better in lower turnout elections. President Donald Trump himself said as much during a rally, noting that high turnout is bad for Republican candidates. As such, the high early voting turnout in Georgia is reason enough for Loeffler and Perdue to worry.
Of course, early voting isn’t a proper indicator of how the election will turnout. However, it is a good sign that Republicans will need to over-perform in-person on January 5 compared to their Democratic counterparts in the runoff election.