Washington, DC — After months of the U.S. Senate's fate hanging in the balance, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff won seats in the highly contested Georgia Senate races, giving the Democrats control of the chamber.
Warnock’s win makes him the first Black senator elected in Georgia. In his speech early Wednesday morning, Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, said he intends to fight for everyone struggling amid the pandemic and their families.
“I promise you this tonight: I am going to the Senate to work for all of Georgia, no matter who you cast your vote for in this election,” the Morehouse alum said.
Honoring his mom, he added, “But the other day, because this is America, the 82-year old hands that used to pick somebody else’s cotton went to the polls and picked her youngest son to be a United States Senator."
At 33, Ossoff is the youngest Democrat senator since president-elect Joe Biden was elected at age 30 in 1973. In remarks on Wednesday morning, Ossoff ensured great healthcare for every Georgian regardless of wealth.
This year’s runoff election is historic, with the Senate’s legislative powers hinging on Georgia months after it flipped blue for the first time in nearly 30 years. With Democrats winning both seats, the Senate will be 50-50, leaving Vice President-elect Kamala Harris with the tie-breaking vote.
Heather Street, who voted early in the runoff, believes it’s no time for complacency. Even with energy high, the battle continues long after the results are finalized, she said.
“I feel really privileged to be a Georgian right now, and I’m excited for the future years to see what organizing is like,” the 24-year-old said. “ It just gives me a lot of hope, and that’s not something that’s very easy to come by these days."
Just like the presidential election, the Georgia youth vote impacted the runoff. About 500,000 Black young people ages 18 to 29 were registered to vote as of Dec. 17, the highest number of Black youth registered to vote in any state, according to data from CIRCLE, a Tufts University center that studies young voters and civic engagement.
These young Black voters largely lean Democratic and were one of the key constituencies that turned Georgia blue. Young voters have been waiting for this moment, using social media apps like TikTok to encourage their peers to vote.
About 1 in 5 people between the ages of 18-29 who voted in the runoff election did not vote in the November general election. This includes 25% of Black youth, which suggests that voter outreach efforts successfully targeted the demographic since then, according to CIRCLE's data.
Joey Wozniak, a Dublin, Georgia native who works on voting rights and civic engagement at a nonpartisan nonprofit, said this atypical level of youth voter turnout during a runoff election is encouraging.
“The system is messy, and it’s not perfect,” the 27-year-old said. “It’s racist and not the way that our generation believes that it should be. And if there’s a chance for us to change it, hopefully, it’s now.”