How can Congress win the 2019 election?

Hardly anyone expected that. First, that Georgia, the state in the deepest American south, would actually become a swing state, a state contested between Republicans and Democrats. Georgia had been firmly in Republican hands for decades. And secondly, that the Senate election in Georgia, more precisely the two upcoming Senate elections this time, has a majority in the upper house of the US Congress. Two weeks before the inauguration of the new president, Georgia will be elected on January 5th. The outcome largely determines the extent to which Joe Biden will be able to push through his political agenda at all.

A coincidence and peculiarities of the right to vote in the ten-million-inhabitant state are responsible for this. Coincidence would have it that this time the two seats in Georgia in the Senate will be awarded simultaneously. Normally, the Senate elections in the individual states are timed so that this happens two or four years later.

The seat of the Republican Senator David Perdue is regularly up for election after six years. The previous Republican incumbent, Senator Johnny Isakson, vacated the other seat prematurely in 2019 for health reasons. The governor of Georgia appointed Republican Kelly Loeffler as his successor until the next election, this November. Therefore, the post was by-election for the remainder of the term of office until 2022.

The runoff election has historical significance

Now, however, the state's right to vote comes into play. In the case of by-elections, there are no primaries, as is usually the case. All candidates will be up for election in November. The two best placed qualify for a runoff, which must take place on "Tuesday of the ninth week after the election", according to the electoral law. In this case, that is January 5, 2021. The Republican Loeffler meets the Democrat Raphael Warnock.

The other, regular seat in the Senate must also be decided this time by runoff. Georgia’s suffrage ensures that too. If no candidate wins 50-plus percent of the vote straight away, there must be a casting vote. So again the Republican Perdue, who narrowly missed the 50 percent mark, and the Democrat Jon Ossoff are running.

The casting vote regulation dates back to the 1960s. It was originally introduced to limit the influence of blacks on the election. At that time it was assumed that a black candidate could never overcome the 50 percent hurdle against the votes of the whites. Over the past few decades, this regime has evolved into a tool that Conservative Republicans could use to keep Democrats out of positions. According to research by the independent election analysis service "Inside Elections", the Democrats have only won one of a total of seven runoff elections in Georgia since the 1990s.

Usually, voter turnout tends to decline in the casting vote because it is difficult for the parties to inspire people again shortly after an election. That should be different this time, because it is about nothing less than the political course of the entire country.

The fight will be extremely tough

So far, Republicans had a relatively comfortable majority of 53 seats in the 100-member Washington Senate. In Tuesday's election, they lost two seats nationwide to the Democrats, who, however, also had to give up one seat. At the moment, both sides are tied with 48 mandates each. The result in the states of Alaska and North Carolina is still pending. In Alaska, there is no doubt that the seat will go to the Republicans. The Republican candidate is also ahead in North Carolina. If they won even one of the two seats in Georgia, they would again have a majority in the Senate.

This is significant in that little is going on in Washington without the approval of the upper chamber of Congress. All laws must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, including budget plans. The Senate alone decides on nominations for top positions in government, administration and courts. If the majority there does not agree with the president's proposal, the post cannot be filled.

The fight for the two seats is likely to be fought with extreme severity. The head of the former Democratic minority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, said: "Now we win Georgia, then we change America." The Republicans have already spoken out. "The Senate is our last line of defense," tweeted the Nation Republican Senatorial Committee, which organizes the Senate election campaigns. In the Washington Post it said both sides could spend up to $ 500 million in campaigning for the two Senate seats.