As the 2020 election cycle comes to a close, with President-elect Joseph Biden’s win officially certified by the Electoral College earlier this month, many — including prominent Stanford politicos — find themselves shifting their attention toward the Georgia Senate runoff elections.
The outcome of these two runoffs, which will take place on Jan. 5, will determine whether Republicans retain their control of the Senate or Democrats become the new majority. In order for Democrats to achieve majority status in the Senate, they need to win both runoffs — a challenging statistical feat, given that Democrats have won just one of seven statewide runoffs in Georgia since 1988. Despite these odds, Biden won the state of Georgia, flipping the state blue for the first time in a presidential election since 1992.
One race features incumbent Sen. David Perdue (R-GA.), who garnered 49.8% of the vote in the November election, and Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who received 47.9% of the vote. The other race features Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA.) and Democrat Rev. Raphael Warnock, who received 25.9% and 32.9% of the vote, respectively.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic Party’s nominee in the 2018 Georgia gubernatorial election, has been widely credited for Biden’s success in the state, alongside other grassroots organizers. As of Dec. 22, more than 1.6 million Georgians had already voted, reflecting the high voter participation seen in the general election.
Two of Stanford’s leading political groups, the Stanford Democrats and Stanford College Republicans (SCR), have been actively involved in the Georgia Senate runoffs.
Since November, the Stanford Democrats have held multiple phone banking events for Ossoff and Warnock in collaboration with Flip the West, a national organization that aims to help Democrats reclaim their Senate majority status.
“It was the Sunday right after the general election when we all realized that the fight was not over and we were going to have to kick into gear for Georgia,” said Molly Glickman ’23, the Stanford Democrats’ communications director.
Since then, the group has hosted Instagram fundraisers and provided political resources for those on their mailing list, which totals almost 1,000 people. After the general election, Glickman said she sent out an email called “Georgia on our Minds” that included a list of six things students could do to help flip the Senate.
The Nov. 15 email included a list of Georgia voter outreach organizations and direct donation links to both campaigns, among other action items. It also provided instructions on how to send personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff and volunteers who interact directly with tens of thousands of voters.
SCR has largely concentrated efforts on phone banking events, with members making over 1,000 phone calls on behalf of Loeffler and Perdue in a single weekend.
SCR President Stephen Sills ’22 will travel to Atlanta the week leading up to Jan. 5, where he plans to participate in door-to-door canvassing, alongside several other SCR members.
“This election is too important for us not to be there in person,” he told The Daily in an email. “The future of the Republic depends on it.”
Sills alleged that Biden may have won the election through fraudulent means, an unsubstantiated claim that President Trump and his legal team have made several times since the election was called for Biden. Their claims of voter fraud have been broadly rejected by the courts, with Trump and his political allies now having lost over 50 post-election lawsuits.
“The evidence that this election was stolen through wide-spread fraud is compelling, being the strongest in Georgia,” Sills wrote. “We are doing everything in our power to ensure that Perdue and Loeffler will be elected.”
Glickman, who canvassed for Biden in Pennsylvania with her mother in November, ultimately chose not to travel to Georgia, given the worsening pandemic.
“The COVID situation is not what it was in November,” she said. “It’s far worse now. We would love to be there… volunteering our efforts, but traveling right now is not the right call.”
She also noted that the Ossoff and Warnock campaigns have an adequate amount of in-person volunteers, and she can spend her time on virtual fundraising and voter engagement initiatives.
“In the general election, there was a new event, phone bank, or person to pander to for support every day,” Glickman said. “This [election] is much more targeted, which is nice.”
Students from Georgia also said January’s runoffs feel vital. Hannah Prausnitz-Weinbaum ’23, an Atlanta resident, said that Biden’s win prompted her to become more politically active in the Senate races, for which she volunteered as a poll watcher.
“I’ve always felt a bit hopeless voting in state elections because I tend to vote Democrat and those candidates don’t win,” she wrote in an email to The Daily. “But seeing [Biden] win the Georgia vote gave me a new mindset about voting in Georgia and made these races more exciting to me.”
“The stakes of these runoffs absolutely feel higher than in any other state election I can remember, because they can make an actual difference,” she added. “It’s crazy to see efforts across the country focused on Georgia.”
Emily Guo ’23, who grew up in Atlanta, currently works with 18By Vote, a non-partisan non-profit that focuses on youth civic engagement. For the past three weeks, she has led a canvassing program on the ground in Georgia that specifically targets young voters.
“Knocking on doors and hearing how many people have already created a voting plan or have already gone out and voted, weeks before Jan. 5, is so inspiring,” Guo said. “You can tell that lots of young people are energized and feel the power of their right to vote.”
Despite record youth voter turnout in Georgia, with young voters comprising 21% of Georgia’s total votes in the presidential election, surpassing the national average of 17%, Guo said that more voter engagement work remains to be done after the runoffs end.
“We’re also seeing lots of people who are disillusioned by electoral politics, whether it’s because they distrust the system or because representative politics have not fought for their communities historically,” Guo said. “I’ve talked to a lot of people on the ground who aren’t voting in this election, and it’s disheartening but easy to understand why they might feel that way.”
Overall, Glickman feels excited by the civic engagement she has witnessed among Stanford students this year.
“It’s been refreshing and energizing to see our generation mobilizing on such a massive scale,” Glickman wrote. “We often think of our democracy as something that’s supposed to take care of us, but really, we’ve got to take care of it.”