What happens today and tomorrow in the US vital to democracyTuesday, January 05, 2021
Today, the United States will hold two consequential run-off races in the state of Georgia to determine whether it's the Republicans or the Democrats who will control the Senate and, significantly, the legislative landscape for the immediate future.
Ordinarily, run-off elections in the US are somewhat akin to our municipal polls — low voter turnout and low-keyed campaigning. But with the stakes this high the campaign has been marked by an unprecedented three million early votes, a third of a billion dollars raised, and wall-to-wall advertising.
Having lost the presidency to Democrat Mr Joe Biden, and given that the Democrats already control the House of Representatives — albeit by a mere 11 votes — the Republicans see a win in Georgia as their only firewall against the opponents.
The Republicans need only win one of the two seats being contested for them by senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, while the Democrats need both Mr Jon Ossoff and Rev Raphael Warnock to win to secure them victory. That would mean a 50-50 tie, in which Vice-President-elect Kamala Harris would have the casting vote.
The Georgia run-off is also centre of attention because outgoing President Donald Trump is controversially pushing to overturn the November 3, 2020 General Election results, which gave the state to Mr Biden, the first Democratic candidate since 1992.
Mr Trump faces an uphill struggle, if not impossible battle to flip those results, because they have already been certified by Republican election officials, after being counted, recounted, audited, further certified by the Georgia Electoral College, and supported by court rulings which threw out allegations of fraud.
It is likely that Mr Trump believes that, should he succeed, he would have the basis to throw out poll results in other battleground states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, and Nevada, where he has similarly lost a string of court cases, including the Republican-dominated Supreme Court.
However, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, both Republicans, have stood firmly by the results in the Peach State, notwithstanding intense pressure and death threats.
The Democrats have accused the president of attempting a “soft coup” and trying to upend US democracy and the constitution by disenfranchising the over 80 million Americans who voted for Mr Biden.
Tomorrow, Mr Trump will continue his efforts to turn things around in his favour, when the joint sitting of Congress counts the electoral college votes, the final and usually routine step in the constitutional process.
Vice-President Mike Pence will preside over the count and has promised to support a sizeable number of House and Senate Republicans who have indicated they will object to the electoral college votes, in hopes of giving Mr Trump an unlikely win.
Interestingly, Mr Pence has succeeded in throwing out a Republican lawsuit that sought to give him the authority to reject the swing states' slates of Democratic electors in favour of Republicans.
The congressional counting session is, in effect, a rubber stamp of the electoral college vote, with no constitutional provision to overturn the results. Any change would leave American democracy in a state of grave uncertainty.
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