Control of the next Senate will come down to the results of two runoff elections in Georgia on January 5, each of which features an incumbent Republican defending a seat.
According to the latest available vote count for the November 3 election, Senator David Perdue failed to reach the necessary 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. The New York Times results put Perdue at 49.7 percent, leading his Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff, who came in at 48 percent — a difference of fewer than 100,000 votes.
The second race, a special election to fill the seat of retiring GOP senator Johnny Isakson, will head to a runoff after none of the candidates reached 50 percent. The race had no primary, so there were several competitors in each party. Republican senator Kelly Loeffler, appointed by Georgia governor Brian Kemp to fill Isakson’s seat until the special election, will face Democrat Raphael Warnock on January 5. Last week, Warnock received almost 33 percent support, or about 1.6 million votes, and Loeffler received about 26 percent, close to 1.3 million votes.
As all eyes turn to Georgia to see whether Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP will retain control of the Senate, prominent Democrats have begun urging left-wing voters to move to the state and vote for the Democratic candidates. Last week, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang tweeted:
The best thing we could do for Joe is to get him a Democratic Senate. 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.
— Andrew Yang🧢🇺🇸 (@AndrewYang) November 6, 2020
“There isn’t much time,” Yang added. “The earliest date for absentee ballots to be mailed for the runoff is Nov. 18. The registration deadline is Dec. 7. The In-person early voting begins Dec. 14.”
Yang was not alone in suggesting this strategy. “I hope everyone moves to Georgia in the next month or two, registers to vote, and votes for these two Democratic senators,” New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman said in a CNN interview earlier this week.
Abortion-rights activist Tamara Stevens, with the progressive group Handmaids Coalition of Georgia, made a similar plea on Facebook: “Hey all you Northern Democrats! You are all invited to spend the Winter in Georgia!!! Come on down and we will cook for you too!!! Y’allywood…start ramping up productions and get all those West Coast Liberals here too!”
But because the January runoffs are a continuation of an ongoing election, experts suggest it would be voter fraud, and a felony, to move to Georgia with the intention of staying only to vote in the runoff elections. Here’s more from the Wall Street Journal:
A spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office, which oversees voter registrations, declined to comment on how quickly someone could establish legal residency in Georgia, but cited state law that it is a felony to vote in Georgia elections if you are not a legal resident or if you are residing in the state briefly with the intention just to vote and then move away.
“These are sensitive issues, and election officials are going to pay attention to what is happening,” said Enrijeta Shino, a University of North Florida political science professor who has researched voting issues in Georgia. “People should be very careful about doing that.”
People moving to Georgia briefly can work on campaigns and canvass for candidates, but voting in the state without the intention of staying would be considered fraud, she warned.
Yang has already announced that he and his wife will be moving to Georgia to campaign for the Democrats. If he and his fellow progressives intend to cast their votes in the runoff, they’d be wise buy themselves a place to live and get comfortable for the long haul.