Democrats will maintain control of the U.S. Senate based on the results of the November 8 election, so why does it matter what happens with the Senate seat runoff in Georgia?
Democrats held a slim lead in the Senate in 2021 and 2022, with 50 Democrats, 50 Republicans. Vice President Kamala Harris serves as a tie-breaking vote when needed, which tilts the Senate in the Democrats’ favor.
In Georgia, the law states that candidates must receive 50 percent plus one of the votes in order to win. Neither Senator Raphael Warnock (D) or challenger Herschel Walker (R) received that much of the vote in the November 8 election, so they are heading into a runoff. The last day to vote in the runoff is Tuesday, December 6.
With Democrats already claiming control of the Senate in 2023, Georgia’s race will not affect which party controls the Senate. However, your vote is still very important, and could even be crucial to the future of our country. Why? For Democrats, holding onto this seat (re-electing Warnock) would further solidify their majority (51 seats), making the vice president’s tie breaking vote less necessary to pass legislation. A larger Democrat majority would also blunt the impact of more moderate members, such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who doesn’t always follow the party line.
Republicans should find value in voting for Herschel Walker, even though a win by Walker would not likely yield any immediate policy changes coming out of the Senate. With Democrats holding such a slim margin in the Senate, a Walker win would put Republicans one seat closer to taking back control of the chamber in the 2024 or 2026 elections, as the winner of the Georgia race will likely serve for at least six years. In addition, you just never know what will happen in politics. Someone like Sen. Manchin could decide to jump ship and become a Republican. Manchin, though popular in his home state of West Virginia, faces an electorate that is decidedly Republican. He has demonstrated that he hears and shares the concerns of his constituents, despite his party’s position. It’s a stretch, but Republicans could also close the gap if a Democrat member of the Senate resigns or passes away during his or her term. Depending on election laws in the state(s) affected, it’s possible the empty seat could fall into the GOP’s hands.
If Warnock wins the runoff, Democrats will have an even stronger voice in national affairs, and he will serve as a champion of Democratic values with Georgians. On the other hand, if Walker wins, he is expected to be a conservative voice in Washington and will have a bully pulpit to further share those values in his home state. Depending on the popularity of the prevailing candidate, their voice could influence the 2024 presidential election results in the state of Georgia.
November 7 was the last day for eligible Georgia residents who aren’t already registered to vote to complete their registration to vote in the December 6 runoff. Early voting for the runoff begins on Monday, November 28.