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“Can We Say That?” – Georgia Runoff: 2022 Edition

Georgia voters are correct to be thinking, “Here we go again.” Two years ago, a pair of U.S. Senate races in the Peach State went back to voters for a January runoff, and in 2022 one of those runoff winners is back for yet another runoff after this November’s general election. But Sen. Warnock and his opponent, Herschel Walker, are faced with a different set of rules in 2022 compared to 2020, and nonprofits are poised to be more important than ever in helping Georgians cast their ballots… again.

Georgia law requires runoffs for any general election in which the winner fails to reach 50% of total votes. But subsequently, Georgia SB202 changed runoff election rules in a few key ways.

  1. The runoff is much sooner — December 6th compared to January 5th.
  2. Early voting is much shorter — only five days long.
  3. Unlike the 2021 runoff, the voter registration deadline has already passed.

Two years ago, nonprofits could help eligible people register and vote in the runoff even if they weren’t registered for the general election. This included young voters who turned 18 prior to the runoff date. Now, nonprofits cannot help register any new voters even though there may be Georgians who are eligible and interested because of the added attention and importance of this runoff.

Once again, Georgia voters may determine which party controls the U.S. Senate, pending the results in two other tight Senate races in Arizona and Nevada. And while 501(c)(3) organizations — whether private foundations or public charities — cannot support or oppose any of the candidates on the ballot, there is a wide array of nonpartisan get-out-the-vote, voter education, and voter protection activities available to keep 501(c)(3)s busy during this extended election season.

At Bolder Advocacy, we take questions from nonprofits every day on what they can say or do, including the Georgia runoff elections. When you boil it all down, the most common question we get from 501(c)(3)s is, “Can we say that?”

Things 501(c)(3)s CAN say

  • “Click here to learn how to vote in the runoff” – A new election another need to request a vote by mail ballot and more questions about when and where early, in-person voting will take place.
  • “Learn where you can volunteer to help” – 501(c)(3) public charities can recruit volunteers for their own or other groups’ voter education efforts, so long as the efforts are conducted in a nonpartisan way.
  • “Young voters turned out in record numbers in the general election – let’s make it happen again!” – 501(c)(3)s can encourage historically underrepresented groups to vote, so long as the audience is not targeted because of their expected party or candidate affiliation.
  • “The future of Georgia is on the ballot” – It’s ok for a 501(c)(3) to encourage Georgians to vote using nonpartisan motivations that do not show support or opposition to any of the candidates or their parties.
  • “Problems voting? Call 866-OUR-VOTE” – Nonpartisan voter protection efforts are core 501(c)(3) activity, but you don’t have to tackle it yourself. You can refer people to efforts led by other nonpartisan coalitions like 866-OUR-VOTE.

Things 501(c)(3)s CAN’T say

  • “A vote for [Candidate X] is a vote for [Party Y] control of the Senate!” – This is the type of thing a lot of organizations will be saying, but they’re not 501(c)(3)s. Stay clear of explicit calls to suggest a preferred vote.
  • “We need fresh blood in [elected office Z]” – This is over the line for 501(c)(3)s because it’s an implicit wink at voting against incumbent candidates, and to vote for their challengers.
  • “Remember that [Candidate A] is endorsed by [Trump/Biden] when you vote January 5th!” – Highlighting partisan endorsements in a get-out-the-vote communication is risky for a 501(c)(3), and best avoided.

For more on election year rules for 501(c)(3)s, see the Bolder Advocacy publication The Rules of the Game, and our Election Year Checklist for a more detailed list of do’s and dont’s during election season.

Georgia nonprofits have already played an enormous role in getting out the vote, contributing to record shattering general election participation. Nonprofits helped Georgia break records for early voting in a midterm election, so it’s a safe bet nonprofits will play an equally important role in the runoffs.