With the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff drawing nearer each day, it’s difficult to underestimate the importance of young voters. More than 23,000 17-year-olds in Georgia will be turning 18 years old between Nov. 3 and Jan. 5 and eligible to vote for the first time in the Senate runoff. If Democrats were able to claim just three-fourths of those votes, it would be more than enough to match the victory margin that worked in President-elect Joe Biden’s favor this November. He beat President Donald Trump by 12,284 votes in Georgia, flipping the state blue for the first time since 1992 when most Georgia voters backed Bill Clinton.
“This election will determine which party has control of the Senate, how much we can hold the president-elect accountable,” said Christina Williams, a 20-year-old student at Clark Atlanta University, in an interview with Daily Kos. Democrats are definitely paying attention to young people and the issues that matter to them. Williams said she can’t speak for all young voters but her priorities are clear. Luckily, Democratic Senate candidates Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have policy plans that address them all, from college affordability to racial equity.
Williams also mentioned wanting to see an increase in funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), directed efforts to address climate change, and another COVID-19 relief bill with a stimulus that college students can quality for.
A Morehouse College graduate, Warnock said he went to college on a “full faith” scholarship, unsure of how he would pay for school. But through a combination of a Pell grant and low-interest loans, he went on to become the first person in his immediate family to graduate from college. He said in the Senate, he would work to “fully fund Pell grants” and to “reduce higher education costs, ease student debt, and back forgiveness programs.”
Ossoff laid out a plan that includes directing federal funding to “cover HBCU budget shortfalls,” make public and private HBCUs debt-free, expand the Pell Grant system, provide grant funding to finance building and technology improvements, and increase public funding to grow HBCU endowments. The investigative journalist aims to establish public health clinics near HBCUs, create 200 centers to expand programs in crucial fields, and help Morris Brown College gain full accreditation to access federal funds.
Both aspiring senators said they would reenter the Paris climate agreement and work to reverse the Trump administration’s rollbacks on clean air, clean water, and fuel economy standards. Warnock said he would also:
- Prepare Georgia’s coastline for rising sea-levels with investments in green infrastructure, structural reinforcement and climate science;
- Push for investment in resources, infrastructure, and education in communities of color to benefit in energy cost savings;
- Advocate for marginalized people to receive training and education to participate in the green new economy and jobs;
- Set goals for carbon reduction and robust climate standards for newly manufactured cars and infrastructure;
- Encourage investment in clean energy and commit to transitioning to a clean economy by 2050; and
- Hold polluters and utility companies accountable.
Ossoff said he’ll “support a historic infrastructure plan that includes massive investments in clean energy, energy efficiency, and environmental protection” and “lead negotiation of an even more ambitious climate treaty.”
“I’ll push for fast advances in sustainability — including a rapidly phased-in ban on single-use plastics, strongly enforced treaties to protect oceans and fisheries, aggressive protection of endangered species and habitats, increased fines for spills and contamination, and stricter controls on toxic chemicals,” Ossoff said.
COVID-19 relief bill
Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, would approach COVID-19 relief with a plan to listen to the experts and support “robust testing, contact tracing, and basic preventive safety like the use of face masks.” He also said he would work to better support “those who have been hit hardest by the pandemic,” and “to fund unemployment and other systems that have been neglected by Washington.”
Ossoff said the federal government should have started efforts in January to “spend whatever it takes and cut through all the red tape to fill” gaps created by the pandemic. He added:
“Use the Army Corps of Engineers, military logistical and medical units, and the Defense Production Act as necessary to build hospital capacity and properly equip medical teams. Give governors whatever they need. Be transparent about how many additional beds, respiratory critical care units, and isolation wards will be built, where, and by when. Go fast!
Second, shore up Americans’ finances. Millions are losing jobs. Families are staring over a financial cliff. This isn’t the time for partisan bickering and gridlock. Congress must immediately send generous emergency cash to tide over people and businesses.
The fastest and most generous help should go to those who need it the most. And no secret slush funds or special favors for powerful corporations. We need complete transparency and rigorous accountability. The president’s dismissal of the Inspector General for the $2 trillion relief program just days after it was enacted is outrageous. A repeat of the bank bailout debacle would destroy what little public trust in government remains.”
While Warnock has detailed plans to make college more affordable through student loan forgiveness programs and fully funded Pell grants, he also pointed out that the state should be providing more options for people who don’t intend to go to college, including support for vocational, trade, and apprenticeship education. He said he would also “fight for teacher pay and resources for schools,” improve elementary and secondary education, and expand Pre-K education options.
Ossoff said he supports “increasing teacher pay and breaking the link between a community’s wealth and the funding available for its public schools” and making “trade school and vocational training free for every American.” He added: “I support a generous forgiveness program for those struggling to pay off their student loans, caps on interest rates to relieve financial stress for all borrowers, and a program that links Federal student loan payments to income so paying off student loans is never a financial hardship.”
Both Warnock and Ossoff have pledged their support of Sen. Cory Booker’s proposal to establish a commission to study reparations and the effects of slavery and detailed specific criminal justice reform plans.
Warnock said he would prioritize strengthening the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits racial discrimination in voting, and work to “responsibly fund police departments while increasing accountability.” He said he would work to “reform the bail system and end mass incarceration” and the use of privatized prisons and “ensure returning citizens can reenter society with access to adequate resources and support.”
Ossoff detailed similar plans. ”In the Senate, I will champion and fight tirelessly to pass a New Civil Rights Act that strengthens civil rights laws and advances comprehensive criminal justice reform,” he said. He also mentioned plans “to reverse the militarization of local police forces, enhance due process and human rights protections for all citizens, ban private prisons, end cash bail, reform prisons and raise conditions of incarceration to humane standards, abolish the death penalty, legalize cannabis, and end incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses.”
“I’ll also support more federal law enforcement resources to attack organized crime, human trafficking, racketeering, money laundering, fraud, espionage, and corruption,” Ossoff said in his plan.
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