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Two Georgia Runoffs Will Decide the Fate of the Senate

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  • Both Senate seats in Georgia are headed for a runoff that is expected to decide control of the Senate.
  • If Democrats flip both seats, the chamber will be divided 50-50, and as the vice president serves as the tiebreaker in split decisions, Vice President-elect Kamala Harris could be the deciding vote, effectively giving Democrats control of the Senate.
  • The runoffs are set for Jan. 5, meaning the election will not be over and the Senate will not be decided until then, prompting many people on both sides to encourage Americans to stay actively engaged in politics.
  • Democrats are trying to use the momentum they have and frame the race as a chance to win the Senate and push Joe Biden’s agenda — specifically on healthcare, which is a very important issue among Georgia voters.
  • Meanwhile, Republicans are trying to spin the races as the last line of defense against far-left policymaking. 

Georgia’s Senate Runoffs

Georgia is now slotted to determine whether Democrats or Republicans will control the Senate after every candidate in both of the state’s two Senate races failed to win more than 50% of the vote required under Georgia law, automatically triggering runoff elections on Jan. 5 to decide the crucial seats.

The unusual position comes after an uncommon election season in the peach state. Usually, Senate elections are staggered, but in addition to the normally scheduled race, Georgia voters were also deciding the outcome of a special election.

That special election took place after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler last year to fill the seat that was left by long-serving Republican Senator Johnny Isakson, who retired before his term was up due to health reasons.

Loeffler is facing off against the Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat and the senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church, which was formerly Martin Luther King Jr.’s congregation.

Meanwhile, in the normally-scheduled race, Republican Senator David Perdue is running to be re-elected to the seat he won in 2014. He is facing off against Democrat Jon Ossoff, an investigative journalist and former House candidate.

Senate Still Up For Grabs

With the presidential election firmly decided for former Vice President Joe Biden, the two Georgia Senate races have become the new focal point for politicians and activists all over the country.

Right now, the next Senate class is split 48-48 along party lines with four seats, including the two in Georgia, not yet called. 

Notably, the other two uncalled seats, which are in Alaska and North Carolina, are also both currently held by Republicans. While the seat in North Carolina is still fairly close, both incumbents are expected to win their re-election races.

Assuming that happens, Republicans would then hold 50 seats in the next session, meaning they would have to pick up at least one of the runoffs in Georgia to keep their majority.

If Democrats win both seats the Senate will be evenly divided 50-50. 

Under the Constitution, when the Senate is split on a vote, the vice president becomes the tiebreaker, meaning that Vice President-elect Kamala Harris would act as that 51st vote on any and all split decisions, effectively giving Democrats control over the Senate.

Renewed Push

Following the news that both races would officially be headed into runoffs, people on both sides of the aisle took to social media over the weekend to say the fight is not yet over.

On the Democratic side, many tried to capitalize on the momentum Democrats have from President Donald Trump’s defeat.

“The best thing we could do for Joe is to get him a Democratic Senate,”  tweeted former Democratic Presidential Candidate Andrew Yang. “There should be coordination of resources. Everyone who campaigned for Joe should get ready to head to Georgia. I’ll go. It’s the only way to sideline Mitch and give Joe a unified government.”

Others also pushed similar messages while praising former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams for her role in turning out the vote, registering hundreds of thousands of voters, and (with the help of other organizers) generally mounting an unprecedented, sustained voter outreach campaign.

After losing the gubernatorial election in 2018 to Kemp in a race that was chock full of some of the most blatant voter suppression in modern history and believed by many to be illegitimate, Abrams devoted her work to reaching out to disenfranchised voters, turning out Black voters who are traditionally targeted by Republican suppression efforts, and flipping undecided white voters, among many, many other things.

Since 2018, she has registered over 800,000 new voters, a massive feat that seemed to sway both the presidential election in the state and both Senate races. While many sung her praises, Abrams herself has been encouraging people to keep up the momentum.

Speaking on CNN Sunday, she encouraged organizers and activists to keep up the hard work and said she believed both runoffs were winnable. 

“We will have the investment and the resources that have never followed our runoffs in Georgia for Democrats,” Abrams added. “And number three, this is going to be the determining factor of whether we have access to health care and access to justice in the United States.”

Democrat and Republican Strategy

That last point is very notable because in addition to trying to use this momentum they already have, Democrats are also setting up these runoffs as a bid for unity and a referendum on the state of healthcare in America.

Healthcare and healthcare access are massively important issues for Georgia voters for a number of reasons. Georgia is one of the few states that did not expand Medicaid to low-income adults under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and the coronavirus has been especially bad in Georgia, in part due to a lack of access to healthcare.

On top of all of that, the Supreme Court is set to hear the latest challenge to the ACA Tuesday in the first real test for the newly-seated Amy Coney Barrett, who has openly voiced her opposition to Obamacare in the past. 

With the very real possibility that at least parts of the ACA will be rolled back, both Ossoff and Warnock are expected to capitalize on the fact that millions of Americans could lose their healthcare during a pandemic because of a judge that Republican Senators forced through a week before the election for a president who lost his re-election.

To that point, the Democrats are also expected to frame this as a chance to give Biden the Senate, and thus allow him to advance his healthcare agenda.

“It may be the slimmest of majorities, but it would make a very, very big difference to the ability of a President Biden to build on the ACA and follow through on the affordability and coverage pieces of his agenda,” Maura Calsyn, managing director of health policy at the Center for American Progress explained.

However, on the other side, Republicans have been framing these two races as the last opportunity to stop the Democrats left-wing agenda.

In a series of tweets posted over the last few days, Loeffler claimed that she and Perdue are “the last line of defense against the radical left” and “the last line of defense against socialism.”

Many Republicans also outlined what they believed to be the Democratic agenda, including House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), who claimed the Democrats would defund the police and approve the Green New Deal among other things, despite the fact that Biden has repeatedly said he will not defund police departments or approve the Green New Deal as proposed.

What Now?

As for what happens with these absolutely essential races, it is still very much up in the air. While it is almost certain that both parties will pour record amounts of money into these races, it remains unclear if the momentum seen in the state during the general election will translate to high turnout for either party during a special election.

Traditionally, it is almost always much harder to convince voters to turn out for elections that do not also have a presidential contest. On top of that, there is also a lot of election exhaustion, as well as the fact that we are still in a pandemic that may very well get much worse before January.

All of these factors are especially concerning for Democrats because historically, they have struggled with winning runoffs in the state. According to The New York Times, Democrats have only won one of the seven runoffs held in the state since the 1990s.

However, that is also in large part due to a much bigger structural problem. As The Times also notes, Georgia’s law requiring runoffs in races where no candidate gets above 50% “was created in the 1960s as a way to preserve white political power in a majority-white state and diminish the influence of Black politicians who could more easily win in a multicandidate race with a plurality of the vote.”

As for how the current results look, Perdue is leading Ossoff quite handily with about a 90,000 vote-lead. In the special, Loeffler is losing to Warnock by seven points, though that is in large part because another Republican candidate who was allowed to run in the primary but will not be in the special siphoned off a huge chunk of the votes.

While it is possible many of those votes would go to Loeffler now that the other Republican is out, keep in mind that she was an appointee, and not someone elected by the people, so her race will likely be more difficult than Perdue’s.

Regardless of what happens, this race is a good reminder that the election is not over. If you are a voter in Georgia and you are already registered, you can request your mail-in ballot now by going to the Georgia Secretary of State website.

If you are not yet registered, you can still do so by Dec. 7 through the same page. If you are 17 now but will be 18 by Jan. 5, you can register to vote in the runoff. For more resources, go to fairfight.com. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (Politico)

Politics

Virginia Governor’s Tip Line to Report Teachers Spammed by Trolls

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The tip line was created for parents to report educators who violate the governor’s new executive orders banning critical race theory and making masking optional.


Youngkin’s Controversial Policies

Celebrities, TikTok activists, and other social media users have been spamming an email tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) intended for parents to report teachers and “divisive practices in their schools.”

The tip line was implemented after the new governor enacted several highly controversial policies targeted at public schools in the weeks since taking office.

On his first day, Youngkin signed an executive order banning so-called critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in public schools. CRT, which is largely taught in higher education institutions, is not included in Virginia’s curriculum standards. As a result, many educators and scholars have expressed concerns that the policy will be used to broadly restrict the accurate teaching of history.

Shortly after imposing the CRT ban, Youngkin further angered educators by signing an executive order making masking optional in schools. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post, the majority of Virginia schools enrolling two-thirds of all students have actively disobeyed the order.

The email tip line, introduced Monday, is intended to report educators and schools that do not follow Youngkin’s policies.

Calls to Spam Tip Line

The tattle-on-a-teacher tip line prompted widespread criticism. Many people took to Twitter to urge other users to spam the email, including major names with massive followings, like musician John Legend.

“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too,” he tweeted. 

Several TikTok activists also encouraged their followers to bomb the tip line as well, including 21-year-old Sofia Ongele, who even launched a website that automatically generates emails to send to the line that include the name of a public school in Virginia and lyrics to a pop song.

Ongele told Insider that, so far, the website has gotten a lot of traffic, attracting about 1,500 people every 30 minutes.

These efforts are not the first time social media users, and specifically young TikTokers, have encouraged others to troll a tip line set up by conservative figures. In September, TikTokers also sent fake reports, porn, and Shrek memes to a tip line intended to report people who violated Texas’ six-week abortion ban.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (WDBJ7)

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Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering

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The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.


Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map

A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.   

In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.

“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”

As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”

The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.

Ongoing Legal Battles

Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.” 

According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.

The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.

Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.

The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)

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Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC

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The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.


SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again

The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.

The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.

The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.

The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.

In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.

The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.

Past Precedent Up in the Air

Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.

But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.

The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.

According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October. 

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (NPR)

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