In a fight for control of the U.S. Senate, some University of Maryland students are phone-banking for the runoff election in Georgia — a state that requires candidates to receive a majority of votes to be elected. 

In the general election, Republicans earned 50 seats in the next Senate, while Democrats took 48 seats. As a result, Georgia’s two seats will determine which party has control over the Senate for the next two years. Two incumbent Republicans, David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, are facing Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, respectively. 

Meghna Pandey, a freshman criminology and criminal justice and physiology and neurobiology major, is phone-banking because of the recent changes in the Supreme Court. Pandey is worried about a conservative-leaning court, which could negatively affect the environment as well as the rights of minority groups.

Though Pandey was pleased with the overall outcome of the general election, a Democratic-controlled Senate will be critical for progressive legislation, she said. 

“It’s especially important that we have more Democratic representation in the Senate,” she said. “That’s one of the main branches of government that is involved in policymaking.”

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Afreen Minai, a sophomore government and politics major, understands the swing state climate in Georgia. She’s from Mason, Ohio, and like Georgia, her home state is quite conservative in terms of electoral votes, she said, which contributed to her decision to phone-bank.

“If it can happen for their state, maybe eventually it could happen for mine,” she said.

Minai wants to see Congress reallocate more money to social services and less to the militarization of the police. She also wants to see more public health care options.

“It is incredibly important for Democrats to be holding a majority in Congress these next two years if we want to make some effective change and actually be able to go after some of the things that Biden has promised during his presidential run,” she said.

But Bryce Kowalczyk, president of UMD College Democrats, said it’s important to focus on “mainstream Democrats” in the runoff election.

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“Georgia is not really a Democratic stronghold so brute-forcing it … may not be the exact best,” the junior government and politics and public policy major said. “We’re going to need people trained to talk to Georgia voters, instead of just a general person.”

Kowalczyk plans to work with the College Democrats of Maryland to strategize — a group that has stronger connections with the Maryland Democratic Party, which in turn has stronger connections with the Democratic National Committee.

“That way, we can have a serious conversation about, alright, how can we utilize all the chapters in Maryland to educate our voters … [and] what’s important to voters in Georgia,” he said. “Then, going at it and making those phone calls a little more educated than before.”

Kowalczyk noted that, historically, college students are not represented well because they do not vote well. Phone-banking is another way for college students to show their support for the issues that matter to them and the change they want to see.

“It’s about time the Democratic Party takes our voting coalition and sees this is the future of our party,” he said.