Asa Daniels, Campus Carrier senior staff writer

Students like junior Taylor Carles, left, and senior Teryn Ferrell, right, meet in Evans Room 123 on Monday nights at 8 p.m. for Berry College Young Democrats. Mary Claire Stockebrand | Campus Carrier

On March 15, the Georgia General Assembly participated in Crossover Day, a major point in the legislative process for bills that are seeking to be passed. Georgia is also approaching a major election, with elections in the United States Senate and House of Representatives, as well as a race for the governor and members of the General Assembly.

Eric Sands, associate professor of political science, explained that Crossover Day is the last time most bills have the highest chance of being sent to the governor to then be signed. However, it is still possible for bills to reach the governor’s office.

“Technically, a bill can still be passed, there’s still a process by which it can make it through the assembly, it’s just more difficult,” Sands said. “Crossover Day is the best time to get your bill passed if you want to get it moving forward.”

Some of the major bills that were considered during this legislative cycle discuss cannabis oil, gun rights, protesting, transgender athletes, critical race theory, Georgia motor tax cut and elections. 

A protest bill passed on Crossover Day which enacts tougher punishments on protests, with an emphasis on damage to property and blocking highways, Sands said. Assistant Professor of Political Science Abigail Vegter added that the bill also increases the threshold for getting a protest permit, as well as increases the punishment for protesting without a permit. Sands said that this bill is timely, given the past year of numerous protests in Georgia related to Black Lives Matter. 

“It applies broadly, to anybody that’s protesting, but it certainly brings to mind immediately the recent protests that Black Lives Matter have been engaging in,” Sands said. “They can’t stop people from protesting but they can say, ‘it’s gotta be done over here’ and ‘you gotta get a license in order to do it.’ The licenses have to be open to everybody and you can’t discriminate based on viewpoint or any of kinds of things.”

Some of these bills are controversial, which may influence politicians to not engage with them in order to avoid backlash in an election year, Sands explained.

“Maybe the last the thing Republicans want to do before an election is pass something really controversial that has blowback on a gubernatorial candidate, so, you know, keep this session kind of vanilla and if there are more controversial things, put them in the pipeline for a later date,” Sands said.

However, Vegter said that politicians may still vote on controversial bills in order to show potential voting constituents where they stand on major issues.

“[Politicians are] signaling to constituents that these controversial issues that are such a part of our cultural conversation right now are one’s [they’re] going to take a stand on and try to proceed in the interest of [their] constituents as well,” Vegter said.

As for the elections themselves, Georgians will be voting for a number of the primaries on May 24, with the exception being the senatorial race for the seat currently held by Warnock, which will be May 8. The date of the general election for all of these seats in government will be Nov. 8.

Additionally, Sands explained that Kemp will have to address his previous term, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia.

“A lot of that’s going to come down to what Georgians think about Kemp’s approach to the pandemic, whether keeping the schools open and keeping everything else open was the right decision or whether they think we should’ve had a bunker mentality and it would’ve saved lives,” Sands said.

Sands added that Stacey Abrams does not have any competition within the Democratic Party for the primary, which he said will be helpful for her in the general election.

“That’s giving her an advantage right now because she can sit back and raise money and she doesn’t have to exhaust herself campaigning with the nomination,” Sands said. “She can come into the general election fresh and, hopefully for her, a big war chest that she can use against whoever the eventual nominee for the Republicans is going to be.”

Sands added that Georgia is a highly contested state at the moment and that makes it a dangerous place for politicians who could have major missteps during the election.

“They just have to be careful because Georgia really is a 50/50 state right now and, you know, it’s not too hard to take a misstep and push voters over that edge and on to the other side,” Sands said. 

Emily Pineda-Duarte, freshman, has volunteered and worked with a number of election groups in Rome and Floyd county, including the League of Women Voters, the Floyd elections office, Romanos Unidos and the campaign group for Congressional candidate Wendy Davis.

Davis is running for district 14, according to her website, which is currently held by Marjorie Taylor-Greene. When Young Democrats president, senior Anna Van Kley, was a freshman, Davis visited Berry and discussed the campaign process.

“She talked about the political campaigning process and how we can get involved in that and she’s one of the people who linked [Young Democrats] in with the Floyd County Dems so we could do canvassing,” VanKley said.

Besides canvassing, the Young Democrats also host events on campus and work with Vikings Out To Elect (VOTE) to help encourage students to register and vote during election years. In their regular meetings, the Young Democrats also work towards making informed decisions with upcoming votes.

“Typically we talk during our meetings about political things [and] we’re engaging with members about what is going on in the world and how can we be an informed voter,” Van Kley said.

Pineda-Duarte explained that most of her work involves canvassing, having dinners with potential votes, and helping voters register. Since she is bilingual, a lot of her work has her involved with Hispanic voters.

“Since I do speak Spanish, I was canvassing and it was good kind of seeing a different side and to reach out to that community,” Pineda-Duarte said.

Pineda-Duarte said that she wants more people to be involved with local elections, as they have a direct impact on people.

“People typically only vote for the presidential election,” Pineda-Duarte said. “And yes, at a national level it is important but, I feel like, state or local levels, that affects us more directly and I don’t think people see that.”

VanKley added that midterm elections serve as an indirect measure of the national and state leadership and how constituents approve of that leadership.

“I think that the midterms are very important because politicians will often use them as a litmus test to see if voters actually approve of what they’ve been doing,” Van Kley said. “So, this midterm will act as an approval score of Joe Biden’s administration and I don’t think its right to leave college voices out of that equation because it’s our future”

Vegter, who relocated to Rome this August from Kansas City, Mo., said that, as an outsider to Georgia politics, she is curious to see how the midterm election shapes up. Additionally, she said that the election is going to be important for determining if and how policies are changing in Georgia.

“A lot of people are going to be looking at [the midterms] as kind of a signal for national mood as well, [about] the power of the Democratic Party in the state of Georgia, kind of assessing, is that backlash to Donald Trump or was that signaling a shift within the state, a shift that can be maintained?” Vegter said.

Vegter added that she is curious how younger Georgians will be voting in the midterms, as well as young people across the United States.

“Something that I think is really exciting across the country, but here in Georgia as well, is the amount of young people who have turned out in recent years. Mainly in 2020, we saw this massive bump in the turnout rates for young people in the state of Georgia and nationally,” Vegter said.

Posted by Campus Carrier

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