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Getting Young People to the Polls: U.S. Vote Foundation’s New Georgia Runoff Election Student Toolkit

Every vote counts in any election, and that maxim is on full display in the upcoming January 5, 2021 Georgia runoff election. With two Senate seats up for grabs, and the margins in the General Election so small that the runoffs could go for either candidate, making sure every citizen is a voter – the mission statement of the U.S. Vote Foundation – has taken on a new urgency.

As we wrote recently, getting young people to the polls or voting at home will be a decisive factor in determining the winners. Those young people not only include the one million youth voters who voted in the last election, it also includes the ones who didn’t show up but are still eligible to cast a ballot for the runoff election.

Many of those young voters – registered or not –  are students, which prompted us to create a comprehensive Student Toolkit for the Georgia runoff election. Some of those who didn’t vote in November hadn’t turned 18 by November 3. But this time around, if their 18th birthday falls on or before January 5, they can register now and cast a ballot like everyone else. Whether you’re in high school or college, employed or looking for work, as long as you meet the age requirements, you can, and should, cast your ballot.

You don’t even have to be a student to use our Student Toolkit. We also encourage teachers, administrators, and school boards to make this toolkit as widely available as possible. Every eligible young person should be a voter too.

Georgia’s Runoff Election: A Sordid History Underlies the Peach State’s Election Process

 

Election 2020 has been full of surprises, and chief among them is the fact that control of the Senate was not decided following the November election. Instead, the majority party for the new congressional term will be settled through a runoff Senate election in Georgia on January 5, 2021.

Both races to represent Georgia in the United State Senate failed to give any candidate a clear majority of the votes, and under state law, the lack of majority means the two candidates with the largest plurality of votes have to face each other again in a runoff election. While it’s already unusual that both senators from a particular state are up for election in the same year, a double runoff is an even more rare occurrence.

However, runoff elections in Georgia – and Louisiana, the only other state that requires them – are hardly a quirk limited to the 2020 election. The history of the January 5 runoff election in Georgia starts back in the 19th century, when the perceived threat of newly emancipated (male) slaves actually exercising their right to vote ushered in an increasingly systematic and violent campaign of voter suppression, of which the runoff election is one manifestation.

Who Gets to Pick Georgia’s Next Senators? It Might Be Up to Young People (But Only If They Show Up)

As the country gears up for a double runoff Senate election in Georgia, here’s a quick look at what could be one of the major deciding factors in the January 5 runoff. That factor is the youth vote, that cohort of 18-29 year-olds that arguably tipped the scales in Georgia during the 2020 Presidential Election and could possibly do the same in January for Georgia’s two Senators in January.

Understanding the youth factor in any election is complicated, and the youth vote in the United States has always been an elusive prize for politicians. Eligible young voters make up approximately 20 percent of the electorate – definitely a tide-turning quantity – but the inconsistent frequency in which they vote has made them a complex group to understand. As campaign after campaign has learned the hard way, turning out young people for rallies and voter registration drives doesn’t necessarily translate into votes at the polls.

Early results from US Vote’s 2020 Voter Experience Survey: Voters’ Perceptions of Election Integrity and Confidence are Higher, and Less Partisan, Than Many Think

One of the unfortunate narratives coming out of this complex election year has been a raft of accusations about the integrity of the election process. The concerns have spanned a gamut of issues: from fears of foreign interference and the casting of fraudulent ballots to concerns about the accuracy of the final ballot count. Underlying these general concerns have been intimations of a partisan divide between Republicans and Democrats that pits one set of partisans who embrace the narrative that the election was deeply flawed and therefore invalid against another side that maintains that everything went well. 

Not so fast. It turns out, like many aspects of this election, simple black and white comparisons across party lines don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

Soothing Thoughts for Nervous Voters

The election season is coming to a close. Can we honestly say: it’s about time? With less than a week left until Election Day, it’s probably safe to say some voter fatigue is setting in. With the pandemic as backdrop, aided and abetted by the relentless doomsday scenario-spinning that many news outlets and social media accounts are exacerbating, 2020 has been a wild ride to say the least. And to say the ride will be over on Nov. 3 would be just another piece of fake news: even if we have a solid winner shortly after Election Day, the chaotic nature of this election won’t go away for a while.

So, as the antidote to doomscrolling and handwringing, we’d like to offer a little hope and a little optimism about what lies ahead.

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Press Releases

Voters in 21 States Can Register and Vote on Election Day

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Local and State Media to Broadcast Election Day Registration and Voting Option

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 2, 2020 – U.S. Vote Foundation today released a comprehensive list of the 21 states where unregistered voters can still exercise their right to vote in tomorrow’s election. This includes swing states and others where close Senate and state races are underway. An estimated 13 million unregistered voters live in these states where on-site registration is available, and their participation could change the dynamic of the election.

Unregistered voters in eligible states can go to their polling place, clerk’s office, or other site designated by election officials to both register and vote on Election Day. Consult US Vote’s Election Day Registration and Voting chart for details.

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls for Immediate Action to Halt the Destruction of the United States Postal Service’s Functional Efficiency

The United States Postal Service is essential tax-payer funded infrastructure and must be protected.

Congress must act now! 

WASHINGTON, D.C. August 18, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) and our Overseas Vote initiative decry the deliberate crippling of the United States Postal Service (USPS) by the Postmaster General and the stated intention of the executive branch to irrevocably dismantle its efficiency in order to thwart the movement of ballots in the November 2020 General Election.

We call for Congress to recognize this situation as a Constitutional emergency and take immediate action to stop the devastation of the USPS before it is too late. Extra funding and a clear directive should be established to support the USPS to excel in mail delivery for the upcoming election and beyond.

The USPS stands today as the largest postal service in the world by both geography and volume, and is estimated to deliver 47% of the world’s mail: in sum, the USPS is essential infrastructure that the taxpayers have funded and it is an outrage that it be sabotaged to take away the voice of our nation’s citizens.

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act of 2020

Immediate Legislative Action is Required to Provide All Voters Access to Vote-by-Mail Ballots

WASHINGTON D.C., March 24, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to pass the Natural Disaster and Emergency Ballot Act (NDEBA) of 2020 to ensure that all voters have access to vote-by-mail and adequate early voting options in the event of natural disasters and emergencies, such as what we are experiencing now with the COVID-19 epidemic.

"As specialists in absentee vote-by-mail ballot request services, US Vote knows that to successfully expand vote-by-mail, it cannot be a last minute decision. We strongly encourage Congress to take swift and decisive action to pass this legislation and to fully fund the improvements that will be needed for the 2020 election to be a safe one for all Americans. When exercising one's right to vote threatens lives, we have a moral duty to act to protect both the voters and our democracy," said Susan Dzieduszycka-Suinat, US Vote President and CEO. "Increased vote-by-mail volume could overwhelm election administrators unless immediate action is taken and they are given time to prepare."

U.S. Vote Foundation Calls on Congress to Mandate a Nationwide “No Excuse” Vote-by-Mail Option Across All States for 2020 Elections

Nationwide Response to Novel Coronavirus COVID-19 Should Include Uniform Election Law Across All States to Allow All Voters to Request Vote-by-Mail Ballots without an Excuse

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 9, 2020 - U.S. Vote Foundation (US Vote) today called for the United States Congress to issue a requirement that all states remove any and all barriers to vote-by-mail/absentee ballot request across all states at all levels, federal, state and municipal, for all 2020 elections including primaries, special, runoff and general elections.

“Ensuring voters can vote from home is a responsible and forward-thinking policy action that Congress should include in its response to the current public health situation,” said Michael Steele, Chairman of US Vote and its Overseas Vote initiative. “It is impossible for voters to predict whether they will be healthy and able to vote in-person. They should be assured they can vote safely with an absentee vote-by-mail ballot.”

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