After a year that saw the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and baseless claims of voter fraud, Georgians know their votes matter now more than ever.

On January 5, Democrats have a chance to, against all historical odds, win the Senate runoff elections in Georgia. After flipping Georgia for President-elect Joe Biden, many Georgians now have their eyes set on flipping control of the Senate to Democrats.

Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock are up against incumbent Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler Tuesday. The result will determine party control in the upper house and marks one of the most critical elections in current history on the national and state levels. Not only does the balance of power in the Senate rest in Georgia voters’ hands, but Republican political domination in the state is also at stake. 

President Trump has his eyes on the state too. In a phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, Trump pressured Raffensperger to “find” more than 11,000 votes to win him the state. Despite a presidential election fueled by baseless voter-fraud claims and in a state with a long history of voter suppression, citizens in the Peach State are making sure their votes count and are adamant about voting in the runoff elections.

Here’s what five Georgians told COURIER about what’s inspiring their vote on Tuesday.

Mari Chiles, Atlanta, GA
Yale student, activist, and co-founder of the The Resistance Fund

“I know with this election, this runoff election, the stakes are extremely high. Pretty much the whole country is counting on Georgia to elect the right people. It’s our duty, everybody in Georgia to go vote right now. I know that the Republicans have immense issues that I don’t agree with at all. I knew that keeping them in office would not be a service to anyone, especially marginalized people, people of color, low-income people. The Republican candidates have shown time and time again all they care about is their own interests and their own wealth and keeping hold of the wealth. Voting against them is my main motivation.”

Kandiss Edwards, Stone Mountain, GA

“I have and will vote in every major and minor election. Of course everyone has a specific issue that they would like to see addressed — this year that issue is damage control. Our country has been subjected to a catastrophic level of mismanagement. The current guy has alienated our allies, created modern day internment camps, emboldened open violence against American citizens, and purposely downplayed an epidemic that has killed 300,000 people. My area of concern is cauterizing the bleeding done by this administration. Major harm has been done to the American people—specifically Black and brown people. I want that harm to stop so healing can begin.”

Ed Pavlic, Athens-Clarke County, GA
Author and professor of African-American Studies at the University of Georgia

“There’s an incredible urgency to get as much Trumpism and as much Republicanism out of electoral power as possible. The years of the Trump administration have been very painful and very dreadful for many people. We want to attack that in any way we can and voting is part of that. We wanted to do that as soon as possible.”

Xavier Peoples, Decatur, GA
Personal banker and founder of HBCU Change

“This is the first time in my lifetime that Georgia has had a say in the presidential election, as well as having the ability to give the seats to control the senate. Furthermore, this is one of the few times in my lifetime that a senate seat has been competitive from a Republican-Democratic perspective. You need to show for Dekalb. We need to figure out how we can leverage the power of our votes to improve our locale.”

Dr. Dionne Mahaffey, Sandy Springs, GA
Business psychologist, volunteer with The New Georgia Project, and founder of Culture Greetings

“The rhetoric, the last four years of being exhausted by the level of ignorance that was pervasive in this current administration, the lies, the lack of accountability, the skewing of successes and the minimizing of failures, a lot of people just had enough.

As Black women we have always had to take on the burden of protecting things not just for our communities but for other communities who don’t even care about us. I’m ready for Tuesday to vote for the lesser of the two evils.”

READ MORE: The Racist Roots of Georgia’s Runoff Elections