Jon Ossoff and Georgia’s Special Election

Georgia chose not to expand Medicaid when the ACA launched–which may move into greater problems for Republican leadership. The Congressional Budget Office’s report on the Republican replacement, the American Health Care Act, projects twice as many uninsured people on the new plan than those covered under the ACA in 2026. Ossoff believes the race allows Georgians to focus on “what we believe in” versus the standard system. Many Georgians stand to lose benefits if the ACA is repealed. There’s a chance of flipping voters and a return to self-interest with President Trump’s  37% approval rating in under 100 days.

But the candidate doesn’t want people to see this as a vote against someone. “I don’t think it’s a referendum on Donald Trump.” The candidate believes “a vote for me is a vote for me” comes “before it is a vote against the president.” Doubling down on the idea of small government, he continues speaking to voters. “I think that local issues matter more than national politics here in Georgia’s 6th district. That’s what I’m hearing from voters as well.”

Unfortunately, the reality for the first special election is either for or against someone on a local level. Voters are looking to either stand with their party or looking for compromises for their upcoming future. And conservatives are willing to listen and see what Ossoff has to say. Trump voter Kristen Freret spoke to Jaffe, indicating a need for more nonpartisan politicians who aren’t“aren’t so opinionated, so extreme” and “tuned out” to voter concerns. Authenticity matters in the current political climate.

The only question is can Jon Ossoff win the election without interference or undue influence?

 

Data hacks and Democratic worry

Gerrymandering after the 2010 election left many Georgia regions with controlling Republican representatives and state legislatures. For example, Handel’s aggressive take against Planned Parenthood aligns with many members of the state party and vision. Planned Parenthood is a partisan dividing line for many voters and politicians. Like many Democrats, Ossoff plans to continue funding for women’s healthcare in the district because the clinics offer services like cancer and gynecological exams regardless of insurance payment or not.

Can he continue to play the moderate with a divisive issue, or will opponents use the opportunity as a dogwhistle? As VICE noted, the GOP-sponsored PAC “is spending 1.1 million dollars on the air to attack him” with pointed commercials and running across most major channels. Meanwhile Ossoff has gained the attention of liberal hubs like Daily Kos, raising the election and his candidacy to a national profile by viral communication.

Kevin Swint recently spoke to WABE about the possibility of Ossoff winning against more established candidates. “The problem is the numbers for Democrats in that district just aren’t there yet.” Swint chairs the political science department at Kennesaw State University, located just outside Atlanta’s borders. KSU is currently facing fallout from reports of recent server hacking, as reported by ABC affiliate WSB-TV earlier this month.

The data breach comes right before the special election and puts the university’s credibility as the designers of the touchscreen voting machines into question. Unlike many states, Georgia does not create a paper ballot back up and solely uses the digital copy. Ossoff raised concerns—per WABE—about the use of the machines during the April voting round. And the university filled a FBI inquiry for the possible breach as well. Secretary of State Brian Kemp remained silent on the candidate’s request.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Monday, March 13, that state Democratic leader DuBose Porter requested the same information. “The security of—and confidence in—our voting system is bedrock of American democracy. It is your obligation to provide all Georgians with assurance that our voting system is sound and secure.” Early voting for the election begins on March 27, so the mounting requests are focused on the overall eligibility of information—even if KSU does not store the data.

In response, Kemp’s spokeswoman Candice Broce rebuked the claims that the data breach demanded a higher investigation. “While we have been patient as KSU works with the FBI to resolve this serious investigation, the Georgia Democrats are launching a manufactured crisis.” She continued, speaking as if the outcome had been finalized. “They would love nothing more than for us to flout Georgia law and use paper ballots so they can challenge the results when they lose, but we will not cater to such childish antics.”

However, as the AJC points out, Kemp has maintained a contentious relationship with federal agencies, like the FBI. Last December, he claimed that the FBI wanted to hack the information themselves. In the meantime, over 20 security experts and computer scientists are pushing for paper ballots until the investigation is resolved. In an article dated the next day, the paper notes the group believes potential evidence and findings may have “dire security consequences for the integrity of the technology and all elections carried out in Georgia.”

 

Strategizing on national victories

The 6th district’s special election is the first one since November and one that the national Democratic party is watching closely to gauge the rising tides in the 2018 midterm elections. If Ossoff wins, the number of Congressional Representatives would rise—still maintaining an overall minority in the House—offering insight into the newest voter block.

Following the data may indicate how to flip certain states and regions in order to represent Democratic voters on a national and local scale. Or so that’s the Democratic Party’s hope. Considering this isn’t the first time state voting data has been hacked by outside agencies, the worry and need for paper ballots may sway some voters into asking for government accountability. In 2015, Kemp offered free credit monitoring for over 6.2 million voters. Will a lack of security cause election voters to consider another option?

Jon Ossoff’s candidacy provides a possible look into the face of Georgia and national Democrats. Winning would position the Democratic National Committee to reevaluate voting tactics. However, losing may indicate that a national flipping outlook may have to wait. If the party chooses to wait, 2018’s election may be a net loss. Republican leaders follow the party vision. And that may be the winning strategy in the 6th district. Georgia’s special election and Ossoff’s performance may decide the national outlook for the next several years.

[Photo courtesy of Jon Ossoff.]

Jessica Hannan

Owner of Wild Pantheon Press, Clever Girl, and Research Queen Productions. Fan of looking at the world and seeing a whole new outlook at every turn. And definitely nerdy for academics.

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