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New Delhi: Two runoff elections in the southern US state of Georgia on Tuesday will determine whether the Democrats or Republicans control power in the US Senate.
Speaking at a drive-in rally in Atlanta on Monday, Joe Biden said Georgia voters “will set the course not just for the next four years but for the next generation.” On the same day, US President Donald Trump told the people of Dalton: “You just can’t let them (Democrats) steal the US Senate.”
ThePrint explains why the Georgia runoff election is vital and how it affects control of either party in the upper house of the US Congress.
Why Georgia has drains
Georgia is one of the 10 US states where a candidate must get at least 50 percent of the vote to win. In other states, the winner of an election is the candidate who receives the most votes, even if it is less than a majority. In Georgia, however, the race will be decided by a runoff election if a candidate does not reach this threshold.
A runoff is essentially a rematch between candidates that is held in the event neither candidate can meet the 50 percent majority criteria. According to Georgian law, the two candidates who receive the highest votes will compete against each other again in a run-off vote to determine the winner in the event of an unclear majority.
In Georgia, Republican Senator David Perdue will take on Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, while Democrat Raphael Warnock will challenge Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler.
In the November election, Loeffler had won 25.9 percent of the vote, while Warnock received 32.9 percent. Perdue won 49.7 percent of the vote, while Ossoff secured 48 percent.
According to 2019 census data, Georgia’s population is around 52 percent non-Latino whites and 32 percent blacks. Data from the Pew Research Center found that black residents accounted for nearly half of Georgia’s electoral population, 1.9 million since 2000.
In 2019, 2.5 million black voters made up a third of the total Georgian voters. The Biden Harris victory in the state during the 2020 US election marked the first time Georgia had gone to a Democratic presidential candidate in 30 years.
Meaning of victory in Georgia
The US Congress consists of two segments – the House of Representatives and the Senate. There are 435 representatives in the House elected for a two-year term, and that number is proportional to a state’s population. The Senate has 100 members – two from each of its 50 states – who are elected for a six-year term.
Of the 100 members in the Senate, Republicans currently have 50 seats and Democrats 48. There are two independent candidates.
If both Democratic candidates, Ossoff and Warnock, win on Tuesday, there will be a 50:50 split in the Senate between Democrats and Republicans. It will give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the opportunity to break a tie in favor of laws or committees proposed by the Democrats.
However, if either Democrat doesn’t win, Republicans will have a majority. This could affect Biden’s plans as well as policies on key issues such as climate change, immigration, voting rights and racial justice in the Senate.
Also read: Why Trump’s call looking for votes is what a coup looks like
Why the Senate matters
While any legislation must pass both the House and the Senate, the latter is the more prestigious. The US Constitution gives the Senate the power to approve presidential nominations, including Supreme Court justices.
In addition, the Senate has sole power to conduct impeachment proceedings while serving as the jury, as seen in the case of former President Bill Clinton, who was acquitted in 1999, and last year’s President Trump.
During the trial of President Trump, the Senate voted to acquit him, even though the Democratic-controlled House had voted to charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of the US Congress.
The Senate also holds investigative hearings – the best known being that of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that ended Richard Nixon’s presidency.
During the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Biden received 24,73,633 votes – 11,779 more than Trump. A 62-minute phone call from Trump was posted by the Washington Post on Monday asking Georgia election officials to “find” thousands of votes and recalculate election results to bring the state to him.
With contributions from Saumya Sharma
Also read: How Trump broke his own party to undermine the elections
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