How to (Really) Help Flip the Senate

The Georgia runoffs in January are important. We need all the support we can get.

At a rally with former Democratic presidential candidate Julián Castro and Jon Ossoff, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, on December 7, 2020, in Lilburn, Georgia. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

In 2017, after President Trump appointed Republican Rep. Tom Price as Health and Human Services secretary, a seat opened up in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District. In the special election that June, Democrat Jon Ossoff ran against Republican and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel. The seat was a stronghold for the Republican Party (it was once held by Newt Gingrich), but due to an influx of younger and minority voters in the district, Democrats had a shot at flipping it. The pressure was on. As a 6th District voter, I felt it with every single door I knocked, every voter I called, every event I hosted. Pundits called this race (the most expensive congressional election in U.S. history) a referendum on the Trump administration. For a few intense months, all eyes were on Georgia, and Democrats from coast to coast rallied around us and then collectively mourned when Handel edged out Ossoff.

The national attention we received in 2017 has nothing on this runoff, which will determine which party controls the U.S. Senate. The tsunami of enthusiasm from Democrats across the country has been both inspiring and overwhelming. But there are plenty of ways out-of-staters can help without adding to the burden or the burnout that organizers have been fighting off for months.

Instead, consider investing in local organizations that have been on the ground and engaging with communities year-round.

With only four weeks remaining until January 5, the key is for those interested in helping to find ways to plug in without further adding to the burden of folks who are working around the clock.

First: donations

If you are able to make them, they are vital. But the campaigns will likely get all the money they need for this election. (Besides, we know that exorbitant amounts of money to Senate campaigns don’t necessarily translate to wins.) Instead, consider investing in local organizations that have been on the ground and engaging with communities year-round. These organizations are both nonpartisan and partisan, and they know how to stretch a $5 donation. Here’s a spreadsheet of some BIPOC-led organizations in Georgia that do voter outreach work. They are run by locals who live, work, and take care of their families in the same communities they support.

Unlike campaigns, these local organizations won’t be disappearing on January 6. They will continue refining their infrastructures and building relationships. They will keep educating and registering voters, and will continue to get out the vote in local, state, and federal elections, long after the national spotlight has been turned elsewhere.

If you have friends or family members volunteering on the ground, offer to send them money to cover gas for their cars or to pay for public transit passes so they can more easily get to where they need to go.

Second: volunteering

There are so many wonderful volunteer opportunities that can be done from the comfort of your own home, such as phone-banking, text-banking, and writing postcards, and many of these are posted online. Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s campaigns, the Democratic Party of Georgia, Fair Fight, the New Georgia Project, and dozens of other organizations have volunteer forms on their websites. Organizations that don’t, have active social media accounts. Follow them. They’ll announce what they need and when they need it. (The spreadsheet mentioned above lists social media handles.)

If you have friends or family members volunteering on the ground, offer to send them money to cover gas for their cars or to pay for public transit passes so they can more easily get to where they need to go. Send dining gift cards so they can pick up food or have it delivered. This supports not only the organizer but also the restaurants likely on the verge of financial ruin due to Covid. Mail baked goods, tea bags, favorite snacks. Send messages to organizers that don’t require responses. This kind of nourishment and checking in will help us power through.

And finally, don’t forget about Georgia after Election Day. In 2022, we have another chance to elect a Democratic governor and flip the Georgia General Assembly. Despite a statewide hand audit and a statewide recount, despite no finding of fraud, Georgia Republicans are doggedly determined to undermine voter confidence and make voting here more difficult for future elections. They are already proposing to require copies of photo IDs for absentee ballots, a move that will disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.

Even if both Ossoff and Warnock win on January 5, our battle here for real representation and fair elections will forge ahead. So make your investment in Georgia for the runoff a long-term one. We’ll need your help again very soon.

Journalist, critic & columnist at ZORA. Essay collection SOUTHBOUND (UGA Press) & debut novel THE PARTED EARTH (Hub City Press), spring ’21. anjalienjeti.com.