Bryce Berry, 21, a senior at Morehouse College, was at Reverend Raphael Warnock’s election night party in Atlanta when it became clear that the Georgia Senate race was headed for a runoff. As the clock approached midnight, the mood changed. Berry’s first thought came with a tinge of annoyance: How could anyone vote for Republican candidate Herschel Walker? Berry went home and went to bed. But after a good night’s sleep, he backed out. He was ready to organize another runoff.
Georgia faces a December 6 runoff over a State law that triggers a runoff if no candidate reaches a threshold greater than 50% of voices. In the last election cycle, both Georgia Senate seats were determined by a January 2021 runoff, and both Democratic candidates won with a resounding victory: Senator Jon Ossoff (D-GA) won a traditional six-year term in Congress; Warnock received a two-year term for winning a special election after the former Georgia Senator, Johnny Isaksonretired, citing health concerns.
After Senator Isakson left, Kelly Loeffler was appointed to his term by the governor of Georgia. She then lost to Warnock in that special election. Now Georgia is once again in the national spotlight as activists and organizers prepare for another high-stakes race. Though Democrats control the Senate with 50 seats versus Republicans’ 49, the Georgia runoff will decide whether Democrats can increase that number — and, Organizers hope to reduce the power of conservative-minded Democrats like Joe Manchin (DW.VA).which is often a holdout vote on critical legislation.
Berry is the President of the Young Democrats of Georgiathe state subsidiary of young democrats of america, a youth-led political organization focused on electing Democrats. A Law passed in 2021 Cut the time between general elections and the runoff from nine weeks to four, increasing pressure on students like Berry who must balance vacation breaks, final exams and political organizing. Berry laughs when asked how he keeps that balance — as he nears the end of his college career, he estimates he’s missing two or three classes a week. But he sees no other way. “As a student, my focus should be on school,” he says, “but I also focus on saving democracy.”
Berry and many other progressive organizers believe that the shortened expiration period is designed to do this disenfranchise voters. “The shorter time is on purpose,” Berry claims. “It is designed to suppress young voters and depress voter turnout. We organize voter suppression, but we shouldn’t have to.”
Kierra Stanford, 24, a volunteer at the New Georgia Project, a nonpartisan organization founded by Stacey Abrams dedicated to increasing voter registration and turnoutEducation is one of the hurdles in organizing the runoff election, she says: many young voters she spoke to are not even aware of it is a runoff and are surprised they have to vote again.
With these facts established, there comes the even more difficult task of convincing young voters that their vote counts. “Sometimes there’s a consensus that voting doesn’t do anything, doesn’t help,” Stanford explains. “I hear, ‘Nothing will ever change, the elected officials will still do as they please.'”
To combat that kind of disillusionment, Stanford says she jumps right into the tough issues: Do they want access to abortion and other reproductive rights? Do you want to be able to afford a house? Do you want to retire one day? Stanford personally conducts these interviews with constituents as she scours malls, plazas, and even bars.