What’s going on in Georgia? The nation’s future depends on it.
BY JOHN HUEY JANUARY 03, 2021 12:00 AM
So now it all comes down to Georgia.
You could be forgiven for wishing closure to what has felt like an endless election. But it won’t really be over until Tuesday when Georgia voters will choose two U.S. Senators and determine which party controls the upper house of our Congress — whether Mitch McConnell will maintain his iron-fisted lock on all legislation, or whether President-elect Joe Biden will enter office with at least a little wind in his sails.
No one knows who is going to win. But conventional wisdom already is out the door on this one. So far, a record-shattering 3 million plus voters have cast their ballots. And even though three of the four candidates have never won any election, a record $500 million has been spent on the runoff.https://cdm.connatix.com/amp-embed/index.html?playerId=ps_3aa185e9-4560-4a95-8aea-ee9e8b248b7f
Like the recent presidential contest, which Biden won by 12,000 votes (a figure confirmed in two recounts), the early vote favors the two Democratic candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, over their two GOP opponents, incumbent Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler (appointed). Early turnout is highest in four Congressional districts that lean heavily blue, while it is lowest in three heavily red districts, including the 14th, which just elected the now-famous QAnon Congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and which will host the President for a turnout rally Monday night.
“Politics is like basketball,” notes Charles Hayslett, a one-time political journalist and public relations executive who now parses Georgia’s shifting demographic trends on his troubleingodscountry.com website. “The points you score early count as much as those you score late.” By his reckoning, Biden took a 230,000 lead into Nov. 3, while Trump led election day voting by 218,000.
Trump’s refusal to accept that basic math, and his willingness to savage his own conservative Republican supporters who run the state have created a hot mess for the Republican candidates. Call for the Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to resign? No problem. Reverse positions on the $600/$2,000 Covid relief bill? Done.
Further complicating matters, Georgia attorney Lin Wood, a rabid Trump supporter and conspiracy theorist, has beseeched fellow Trumpers not to vote for the GOP Senate slate.
The good news for Democrats is the circular firing squad blasting away at itself on the other side. The good news for Republicans is that in November all but nine of their 102 candidates outperformed Trump in their races. So it’s hard to say whether turning this race into a referendum on the outgoing President is a net positive or negative for either side.
With or without all the circus antics, the nation’s short-term political future is squarely in the hands of voters in its 8th largest state.
From next door in North Carolina, America’s 9th largest state, it’s natural to wonder if what’s unfolding in the Peach State correlates to the demographic/political shifts in the Tarheel State, which Trump won by only 77,000 votes.
The two states are roughly the same size in population, approaching 11 million. Metropolitan Atlanta, however, accounts for 6 million of those heads, compared to only about a third of that number for Charlotte. In many ways, Georgia is becoming Atlanta, with all the political trends inherent in large suburban/exurban voting districts.
Moreover, roughly a third of Georgia’s population is African-American, with 3.5 million blacks compared to only 2.4 million in North Carolina. And Atlanta is a national center for Black economic, political, and educational power.
Perhaps most important, Georgia and Virginia are the only two states in the South that offer “automatic” voter registration, meaning that if you obtain a driver’s license, you are registered to vote unless you opt out. Roughly 90% of those eligible to vote in Georgia are registered.
I wondered how all the craziness around this race will affect the upcoming electoral process, so I asked Gabriel Sterling, a Republican who is the state’s Voting System Implementation Manager. You may remember him from his impromptu press conference in which he made a heartfelt plea for Trump and GOP leadership to stop questioning the integrity of the Georgia vote, warning that they were stirring up threats of violence, including against his own family.
“My biggest worry is that we have election workers who have been worked into the ground,” he said, citing the COVID-19 protocol rollout, an unprecedented number of absentee ballots, a recount, and then another forced hand recount. “It has really, really been hard on these people, and I am concerned for them. They are exhausted. But they will do their jobs and count the votes.”
By all accounts, they’re going to have another very late night in Georgia.Contributing columnist John Huey was born and raised in Atlanta. He cut his teeth on politics and journalism at The DeKalb New Era, a suburban weekly in Decatur, and also covered the state capitol for The Atlanta Constitution.
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