After a long election night—or really election week—we finally got a clear understanding of who the next president of the United States would be. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were ultimately named victors, but in the famous words of the late Kobe Bryant: “Job’s not finished.”
Due to Georgia’s majority voting system in which congressional candidates must win at least 50% of the vote to win a seat in DC, the contentious senate races between Sen. David Perdue and Jon Ossoff, as well Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rev. Raphael Warnock, have been extended to January 5, 2021. Those living in Georgia’s 5th Congressional District—which encompasses areas in central Fulton, southwest Dekalb, and north Clayton—also have a runoff election on December 1 for the late Rep. John Lewis’s vacant seat in the House of Representatives.
Alas, whether you were celebrating the outcome of the presidential race or feeling utterly defeated, you still have a chance to make your voice heard in these upcoming runoff elections. The national stakes are incredibly high for these contests, and the balance of the Senate rests in Georgian hands. Here’s how you can make an impact on these momentous runoff elections.
The deadline to register to vote is in order to participate in the January runoff elections is Monday, December 7. So be sure to register, especially if you’ve just turned or are about to turn 18, recently moved to a new county, gotten married and changed your name, had your legal record expunged, or became a citizen. You can safely and quickly register to vote and make important changes to your voter registration online, and you can also register to vote by mail or in-person at any state or government office. Once you’re registered, volunteer to help register others with nonpartisan organizations like The New Georgia Project.
Seeing as COVID-19 will still be a significant threat well after the January runoff elections, it’s wise to request an absentee ballot if you’re uncomfortable hitting the polls in-person. Counties will mail out the first batch of absentee ballots to voters who have requested them starting Wednesday, November 18, so be proactive and request yours as soon as possible. You technically have until the Friday before Election Day—in this case, January 1—to request an absentee ballot, but these runoff elections are deep within the holiday season. In order to have your absentee ballot count, it has got to arrive or be submitted to an official absentee drop box by Election Day at 7 pm, so don’t risk your opportunity to vote safely by waiting too long to request your ballot.
One of the leading factors that causes eligible voters in Georgia to be unable to cast their votes electronically and submit one of those dreaded provisional ballots is the inability to present a government-issued photo ID. To help avoid this reality for potential voters, Spread the Vote is working hard to obtain much-needed IDs for potential voters, as well as help them make and execute plans to vote. You can serve as a Spread the Vote volunteer or support their efforts financially through donations.
Another organization in Georgia that’s dedicated to promoting voting rights is Stacey Abrams’ Fair Fight, which is always looking for volunteers (from lawyers to voter callers) and donations. It’s a more partisan grassroots movement, but its focus is primarily ensuring that elections are fundamentally fair and free of corruption.
We’ve all gotten one—but probably much, much more—of those texts that remind you to vote in the election, and while they probably annoyed the hell out of anyone who had already planned to vote, they could have inspired someone who hadn’t even considered it. If you’re down to irritate the masses yet galvanize the few, then your calling during this runoff election is to be a voting ambassador. Organizations like Black Voters Matter and Campus Vote Project have opportunities to reach out to potential voters in order to encourage them to vote via texting, calling, and canvassing.
The New Georgia Project’s voting ambassador program gives the important grassroots work an interesting twist. To get the word out about voting, ambassadors will be tasked with recruiting Vote Triplers—people who agree to remind three people to vote—from their family, social circles, and neighborhoods. Plus, for every Vote Tripler recruited, you earn a little bit of cash.
Consider being a civil servant for a day and working as an official poll worker on Election Day. Applying to be one is as simple as emailing your country officials and, after you’ve gone through training on how the election process and voting equipment works, you’ll be able to serve somewhere in the county that you’re registered to vote in. (You even get compensated a little bit for your time.) Furthermore, you can also go through your preferred political party to be plugged in as a poll watcher. Georgia’s Republican Party and Democratic Party both employ poll watchers to ensure that there’s no funny business on Election Day, so apply through those channels as soon as possible.
As finicky as Georgia weather is, residents know just how cold it can get in December and especially January. Keep that in mind because those ridiculously long lines from November’s general election are likely to make a return this winter. Depending on how cold it gets, waiting outside in the elements could deter plenty of voters, so The New Georgia Project is supplying voters providing personal protective equipment—such as body and hand warmers, ponchos, face masks, and hand sanitizer. Do your part in helping them ensure that every voter is able to safely and comfortably brave intense weather conditions as well as the risk of COVID-19 by gifting the organization supplies through Amazon.
The most fundamental way to impact the upcoming runoff elections is to exercise your right to vote. If you’re voting in-person, bring your ID, put on your mask and the warmest coat that you have, and go show out at your voting precinct. If you’re voting by mail, do so as soon as you possibly can to ensure that your ballot arrives by election day. For sample ballots, precinct information, and anything else you might need, always resort to your My Voter Page on the Secretary of State’s website.
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Joshua Robinson is an Atlanta-based contributor, proud voter, and newly minted poll worker. Follow him on Instagram at @roshjobin.