Buckle up for a wild finish to the election season in Georgia.
Much is at stake, with polls showing close races for president, two U.S. Senate seats and a few U.S. House seats. A number of state legislative races are considered competitive.
And then there’s the Covid-19 pandemic, which is changing how Georgians are choosing to vote, and court battles that are already being fought over voting issues and ballot access.
Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming election.
How to vote
Before the individual races are broken down, here’s everything you need to know about voting in the election. Voters have the option of requesting mail absentee ballots that can be returned through the mail or placed in a ballot drop box, voting early in person or voting on Election Day. If you plan to vote in person, here’s how Georgia’s new voting machines work.
It’s been 28 years since Georgia has voted for a Democrat in a presidential election. Republicans have won every statewide election since 2008, but their margins have been shrinking. Polls show the state is a battleground. Expert election forecasters rate Georgia a toss-up in the presidential election, and for the first time in years, the presidential campaigns are coming to the state not just to raise money but to try winning over voters.
Both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats are on the ballot. David Perdue won his first term in 2014 and is seeking what he says would be his final term. Kelly Loeffler was appointed to fill Johnny Isakson’s seat in December and faces 20 other candidates.
Perdue’s race is more traditional. He’s up against Democrat Jon Ossoff, who gained notoriety during his narrow loss in the 2017 special election in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. Libertarian Shane Hazel is also on the ballot. Election forecasters give Perdue a slight edge.
Loeffler finds herself in a packed contest. There are 21 candidates on the ballot, including several Democrats, a well-funded and well-known Republican congressman — Doug Collins — and Libertarian Brian Slowinski. If no one gets a majority of the vote — all but certain given the number of candidates — the two top finishers will square off in a January runoff. Forecasters give Loeffler a slight edge in their predictions.
There will be at least four new Georgians in the U.S. House in 2021. Democrat John Lewis died in July, and three Republicans — Rob Woodall (7th Congressional District), Doug Collins (9th Congressional District) and Tom Graves (14th Congressional District) — chose not to seek reelection.
5th Congressional District
The timing of Lewis’ death led to a bizarre series of elections. A December runoff will pick Lewis' successor through the end of the year. But the November general election between Democrat Nikema Williams and Republican Angela Stanton-King will decide who represents the district for the next full term.
6th Congressional District
Democrat Lucy McBath flipped the district that included parts of north Fulton, DeKalb and Cobb counties in 2018. She beat Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel by 1 percentage point. The two face each other again this year, but now McBath is the incumbent. The district had been one of the strongest Republican areas in Georgia, but it has shifted in recent years toward the Democrats. Election forecasters give McBath a small advantage.
7th Congressional District
In the nation’s closest congressional race in 2018, incumbent Republican Rob Woodall held his seat against Democratic newcomer Carolyn Bourdeaux by 419 votes, or about 0.1%.
Woodall chose to retire, but Bourdeaux is making another run for the district that includes parts of Gwinnett and Forsyth counties. She faces Republican Rich McCormick, an emergency room physician and military veteran. Most election predictor websites give Bourdeaux a slight edge against McCormick.
9th Congressional District
The 9th District became an open seat when U.S. Rep. Doug Collins decided to challenge U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Republican gun store owner Andrew Clyde won a crowded primary and is the favorite to win the solidly Republican district. Democrat Devin Pandy is challenging him.
Republicans have controlled all three branches of state government for the past 15 years. In 2018, Democrats picked up 11 seats in the House and two in the Senate. They’ll need to pick up 16 more seats in the House to grab control of the chamber. It won’t be easy because several of the seats they won in 2018 were close and the incumbents face Republican challenges.
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
Credit: Alyssa Pointer
There are two proposed constitutional amendments and one statewide referendum on the ballot. The questions deal with how government fees should be used, whether citizens can sue to overturn unconstitutional laws without permission from government and should property tax breaks be given for certain charities.
Public Service Commission
Two of five seats on are up for statewide vote on the Georgia Public Service Commission, which regulates Georgia Power and natural gas supplier Atlanta Gas Light.
Cities and counties have a wide range of issues on the ballot, including measures that make an impact on real estate taxes. Voters will also select municipal officials, including sheriffs and county commissioners.
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