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There’s More at Stake in Georgia’s Runoff Election Than a Single Senate Seat

Raphael Warnock stands in front of a group of supporters holding campaign signs.

Georgia voters are heading to the polls today for the special runoff election between Senator Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker. Despite Walker’s unending run of scandals, lies, and nonsensical comments, the polls are still nail-bitingly close.

After Republicans’ “red wave” failed to appear in November’s midterm elections, there was a general perception that Georgia’s runoff wasn’t as “important” as it might have been otherwise. It’s true that even if Walker wins this seat, the Senate split will be 50/50, giving Democrats a de facto majority with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as the tie-breaker. Still, even from that perspective, a 51st Democratic Senate seat would be invaluable, as we’ve spent two years seeing how a single power-hungry senator like Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin can hijack an entire cause by withholding their vote until concessions are made to their ego and/or wallet. A wider majority will rob those outliers of much of their power.

But Raphael Warnock is more than just a 51st seat and reducing him to a tally mark is a dehumanizing disservice to the great work he’s done to serve his constituents in Georgia and all Americans. He was behind the recent push to limit the cost of insulin for seniors on Medicare and he’s fought for everything from affordable housing to reproductive freedoms. This isn’t just about keeping Walker out of the Senate, it’s about keeping Warnock in. And it’s also about sending a message to Republicans that their insidious ploys to disenfranchise voters won’t go over without a fight.

A win for Walker is a win for voter suppression.

Looking at the bigger picture of Republicans’ attempts to disenfranchise voters—specifically Black and low-income voters—there is so much on the line in Georgia. Since the 2020 election, the Georgia GOP has done everything they can to keep Black people from voting. Last year, state legislators passed a bill making it incredibly difficult to vote by provisional ballot and limited absentee and early voting. That bill also made it a crime to hand out food or even water to people waiting in line to vote—and in Georgia, like in so many other states plagued by suppression tactics, those lines can be hours long.

It is unfair and unrealistic to expect people to simply outvote systematic voter suppression but right now, that seems to be the necessity required of us. Republicans in states across the country are working hard to disenfranchise every potential Democratic voter they can. This week, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in a monumentally consequential voting rights case that has the potential to give state legislatures complete power over elections.

Voter disenfranchisement is the GOP’s ultimate goal and if Walker wins in Georgia, it will send a huge signal to the party letting them know that their plan and their tactics are working.

Yes, a 51st Senate seat would be great for Democrats. But a win for Warnock is so much bigger.

(image: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.