The Georgia Senate Runoff Elections: What They Mean, and How Their Results Will Impact our Country

Clara Sorkin

January 6th, 2021, is a day that will go down in history for many Americans. It was on this day, that a mob of far-right rioters stormed our nation’s capitol building and threatened the safety of our elected officials, as well as the entirety of our democracy. However, Americans may choose to also acknowledge that on this day, Georgia elected two new senators and solidified our nation’s 117th Congress. The United States Congress is a body of 535 government officials; 535 members of the House of Representatives, and 100 members of the Senate. While the system of checks and balances keeps any of the three branches of government from obtaining too much power and control, the legislative branch, or Congress, is arguably the most important of these branches. These members of Congress have numerous responsibilities, including drafting legislation, acting as representatives of their constituents, framing public policies, voting on and revising legislation, and more. 

Since there are 100 senators, each must state elect 2 senators to represent them in Washington D.C. In order to pass as much legislation that benefits their party as possible, either the Democrats or the Republicans must gain control of the House of Representatives and/or the Senate. Having control over either of these chambers is extremely important for our country’s future and what we represent. Since senators are only elected every 6 years, not every senator’s seat was up for grabs this past 2020 election circuit. Out of the 100 seats available in the Senate, 33 were up for reelection this past year. Until Georgia’s runoff elections, Republicans held 50 of the 100 seats, and Democrats held 48. For this reason, it was vital for Senate democrats that Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Georgia’s Democratic candidates, win their runoff elections in order to have full control of the senate. While this may have added up to an even 50/50 split, in the case of a tie, the Vice President, Democrat Kamala Harris, would act as a tie-breaker.

So, why did Georgia have to go into ‘overtime’ for their Senate elections? Well, Georgia state law required runoffs in both Senate elections because neither candidate in either seat reached 50% of the vote in the prior November election. Since each state has its own rules and regulations related to voting, Georgia held their runoff elections on January 5th, 2021. You might be asking, who are these candidates? The first seat up for grabs was Republican David Perdue’s, an incumbent since 2015, meaning he had held the seat in the past. Perdue was up against Democrat Jon Ossof; a former journalist who is only 33 years old. The second Georgia senate seat was Republican Kelly Loeffler’s, technically also an incumbent. Loeffler was up against Raphael Warnock, a pastor at the same church where Martin Luther King held the same position. 

About 24 hours after the polls closed, Democrats Ossoff and Warnock were declared the winners of their Senate seats; but why is this such a big deal? This year, Ossoff and Warnock made history. Ossoff is Georgia’s first Jewish senator, and Warnock is their first African American senator. The results of these elections will not only have a political impact in our country, but also a social one. Two people; each in an underrepresented minority group, being able to lead a state that has been hateful to both their groups in the past is a meaningful moment for our country. The results of this runoff election may not make people on all sides of the political spectrum happy, but they should please anyone who is looking forward to a more just and equitable future in our country.