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Berkeley High Students Phonebank for Highly Consequential Georgia Senate Runoff

Students participated in political campaigns for the Georgia Democratic Party to promote candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, who both won their respective Senate elections.

On January 5, 2021, the state of Georgia held two elections for the United States Senate. These consisted of the special runoff election between Raphael Warnock (Democratic Party) and Kelly Loeffler (Republican Party) and the regular runoff election between Jon Ossoff (D) and David Perdue (R). 

As a result of the election, the Democratic party has taken control of the Senate, with both Warnock and Ossoff winning their respective elections. This means that the Democrats and Republicans currently split the senate 50-50, however, with Democratic Vice President Kamala Harris beginning her term on January 20, 2021, the Senate now has a Democrat to cast tie-breaking votes. 

The Georgia runoff not only represented a major win for the Democratic Party in the Senate, but also a major step forward for the state itself. Georgia has developed a pattern of racism within their elections throughout history, and as a Black man, Warnock’s win serves as a major breakthrough to combat the state’s history. 

In 1917, Georgia adopted a system similar to that of the US Electoral College in that of the “county unit system.” This system favors less populous counties, by granting them proportionately more power, with “urban” counties receiving six votes, “town” counties receiving four votes, and “rural” counties receiving two votes. This system effectively minimized the voting influence of the Black population within the state, allowing the smaller white population of Georgia to hold much more voting power over elected officials.

With the US Supreme Court ruling this system unconstitutional and in violation of the “one person, one vote” principle in 1963, the runoff system was introduced. Although new to Georgia, the system remained rooted in racial prejudice and white supremacist beliefs. Against all odds, Reverend Raphael Warnock will now serve as Georgia’s first Black senator and the first Black Democrat to represent a southern state in the Senate. 

The election of John Ossoff similarly made history; he is the first Jewish Senator to be elected in a southern state since 1880, while also being the youngest Democrat elected since president-elect Joe Biden in 1973. 

Even in a completely different state, the 2,500 miles between California and Georgia couldn’t stop Bay Area youth from continuing to get involved in the election through various methods. Berkeley International High School (BIHS) junior Abby Lamoreaux began working as a remote fellow for the Georgia Democratic Party (GDP). Lamoreaux worked in Camden County and Glynn Country on volunteer outreach and recruitment, calling people in the GDP database and sending people to the office in Georgia to begin canvassing. 

Additionally, Academic Choice (AC) sophomore Medina Lam attended four different phone banks and also hosted a phone bank through the Berkeley High Sunrise Hub. Through these various phonebanks, Lam encouraged people to vote before January 5.  

With the constant need for voices to be heard within elections and government, youth activism has become more necessary than ever. Lam stated that it is “absolutely necessary that youth are involved because activism is one of the only ways we can really make an impact.” Further emphasizing this idea, Lamoreaux said, “I think that youth involvement is amazing!” She stressed the importance of youth contributions in creating a better future and stated that, “If we lay back and say that we will be dealing with [issues] when we are older, then it is already too late.”

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