The grassroots movement has helped turn the once red Georgia into a battlefield during the two most recent election cycles. The moment is now, Democrats are hoping that they, along with the multiracial coalition they formed will deliver another amazing result in 2022.
Organizations such as the voter registration organization New Georgia Project and Black Voters Matter have been working for a long time, sometimes for more than 10 years, to build the political potential of Black voters as well as other voters of color in Georgia. These voters represent 40 percent of the population however, they have been historically ignored by both parties. The grassroots have been struggling for years to attract investment from campaigns and funders who, for the most part, believed that their efforts were unsuccessful.
In 2018, their hard labor brought them success in the election of Democrat Stacey Abrams ran for governor, writing a new Democrats the playbook for the process of winning a narrow defeat which was driven predominantly by non-white voters. A campaign modeled after Abrams’s was instrumental in helping Joe Biden flip the state with a less than 12,000 votes difference in the 2020 election, a vital victory in his quest for the presidency. It also helped the long-shot Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock with surprise wins in the US Senate races, handing the party a narrow majority in Congress.
Abrams’s second run as governor. She is running against the incumbent Republican Governor. Brian Kemp, as well as the possibility of Warnock’s reelection and Democrats having a chance of holding the control of the Senate with the Senate, remains in the balance. Democrats and their ally from the grassroots hope to get their message across to win.
Inspiring by the crucial role that grassroots groups played in changing Georgia purple the national Democrats began what they claim to be their biggest-ever state-wide coordinated campaign to win a midterm election this month.
“Georgia Votes” campaign “Georgia Votes” campaign is an initiative that is a collaboration between The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic National Committee, and Georgia Democrats The campaign is designed to revive the multiracial alliance that grassroots groups worked to turn around in the year 2020. even though it doesn’t directly collaborate or support them as per lawful campaign regulations.
Georgia grass-roots groups in Georgia are in a full-on mode in order to make sure that the passion among voters who are of color remains in the fall and isn’t affected due to states’ recent restrictions on voting and education, extra support at the polls, and protections against voter purges.
“There are amazing local organizations that have been doing the difficult job for years to get involved with Georgia voters. Our state is better off because of it. While the Democratic Party of Georgia] develops the coordinated strategy to engage Georgians across the state for this election, we’re thankful to the many organizers who work to ensure that every Georgian’s voice can be heard in our democratic system,” said Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia.
The party faces more national headwinds, which include a polarizing Democratic president as well as high inflation. However, grassroots groups are optimistic they can overcome these obstacles in Georgia. They say they’ve been trying to achieve what could have been considered impossible results in Georgia’s politics for several years.
“We’ve been working in the shadows of what appears to be the lines of the enemy. It’s been a high-risk battle in the direction of the state of Georgia since the time we began the project in 2014,” stated Nse Ufot Chief Executive Officer at The New Georgia Project.
Groups from the grassroots are challenging Georgia’s voting laws that are restrictive
The main concern going to 2022 Georgia Democrats and other grassroots organizations was the way they prepared to counter the negative effects of Senate Bill 202 which was a law passed by Kemp in the month of March 2021. The law put in place new restrictions on voting such as restrictions on mail-in ballots and stricter ID requirements. an outlaw on the provision of water and food to those who were waiting in line, as well as measures that transferred the power of state and local elections officials to lawmakers.
The Vox’s Zack Beauchamp wrote at the time, “the intent of the bill is clear: to wrest a state that’s increasingly trending blue back toward Republicans.”
For the November 2021 municipal elections in November 2021 in the first election with the newly-enacted law reject of mail-in ballots increased up to four percent which was a significant increase from just 1% for the general election of 2020. A majority of the applications rejected were denied because they were filed following the earlier, new deadline established by SB 202. A majority of voters never decided to vote in person. A further 15 percent of applications rejected were rejected because of insufficient or inaccurate identification information as required under the law’s new requirements.
It’s unclear what Democrats’ Georgia Votes initiative which is only a few weeks older — will react to SB 202. The grassroots organizations, however, have stepped up efforts to inform voters about deadlines for voting and the rules outlined by the new legislation this year. Fair Fight has been double-checking voter registrations as well as their precincts’ locations and urging the most people possible to vote early, in-person due to the issue of postal ballot rejections according to Fair Fight’s director of communication Xakota Espinoza.
However, having to provide more education can be a stress on organizations that are trying to get individuals to participate.
“Not everyone we’re having a conversation with is actually participating in the process. This conversation can be made harder when you’ve required the task of providing some information about the procedure,” said Cliff Albright who is the co-founder and president of Black Voters Matter, a voter mobilization organization in Georgia.
The grassroots groups also provide assistance to voters. In the last primaries, Latino Community Fund Georgia provided staff to 10 polling places located in Chatham, Cobb, Gwinnett, Fulton, and DeKalb counties, in which there is a huge Hispanic population, to provide Spanish translation. However, the volunteers were not able to translate it into Spanish. In Chatham County, poll managers had to turn several of their volunteers out, according to Michelle Zuluaga, the organization’s civic participation coordinator. Black Voters Matter set up tables that served refreshments near the polls, as they are not allowed to distribute drinks and food to those waiting in line, according to this new legislation.
Despite the additional challenges created due to SB 202, the overall participation in the May 24 primaries was very high, especially given that it was a midterm election year. The official election day numbers aren’t yet final however, an unprecedented 857,000 voters registered early, up from 299,000 during the 2018 primary. This included around 4833,000 Republicans in addition to 369,000 Democrats.
Republicans have suggested this is evidence of SB 202 doesn’t actually suppress the vote as Georgia grass-roots groups as well as Democrats claim.
However, grassroots groups say that their arduous efforts to register voters and mobilize voters resulted in a high turnout of voters despite the hurdles that were created due to SB 202. “The
high turnout is evidence of our organizing and evidence that Georgia voters know and understand the power of their vote,” Ufot added.
The obstacles before the general elections
The highly-publicized showdown in the Senate between Abrams and Kemp and Kemp, whose is the control over the Senate is at stake again and the voter registration and educational work carried out by grassroots groups could lead to a large turnout in the autumn. Democrats fear that the vote could worsen the problems posed through SB 202. The grassroots groups are putting the spotlight on protecting voters in the coming months. Even though it is true that the Democratic Party has its own strategies to fight the suppression of voters, however, grassroots groups aren’t likely to solely rely on this.
The New Georgia Project is preparing to take on what it expects to increase the number of attempts to cleanse voter lists under SB 202 which permits anyone to challenge the election of an unlimitable amount of voters at a time. For instance, the group stopped an attempt to challenge the admissibility of 13,000 registered voters by a single individual from Forsyth County earlier this year.
The group also collaborates in a partnership with organizations that provide legal assistance to teach lawyers who specialize in the field of criminal and electoral law to defend voters who are accused of fraud. SB 202 created several new election crimes, for instance, making it illegal and a crime to watch someone else sign their ballots at home unless they’re providing legal assistance. In addition, state lawmakers passed an April law that allows state police officers to examine election fraud and other crimes committed by voters.
“We know that we have some zealous prosecutors in the state that are absolutely going to take advantage and try to prosecute Georgians under these new laws,” Ufot stated.
Beyond protecting people from voter intimidation, they’re trying to sustain the excitement in Georgia until November. That means they’ll continue to speak about the issues that are important to Georgians as well as our current economic crisis that is particularly felt by those earning the minimum wage in Georgia, which is only $5.15, and Georgia’s inability to increase its Medicaid program, which has left approximately half 1 million residents not eligible for health insurance and the danger to free and fair elections brought on by former President Donald Trump’s attempts to change the results of the 2020 elections in Georgia.
Reproductive rights have also been an issue of great importance since it was revealed that the US Supreme Court’s proposed decision to overturn the 1973 precedent of Roe Wade. Wade was leaked to Politico. Georgia has already got the most maternal mortality rate in the nation — and it’s much higher for Black women in particular.
They’re not the only ones in the persuasion and voter protection campaigns. The national and state Democrats have a coordinated campaign organizing and training volunteers to get the vote and get the attention of Georgians, particularly communities of color in advance of the
November elections. As part of this, they’ve also created a team to protect voters which will fight the issue of voter suppression.
But there are many grassroots advocates who believe they can count upon national Democrats to take on the task of educating voters about the importance that this campaign has. With decades and experience working in this state, some are confident that they will be able to get supporters to the polls this November.
“There needs to be some messaging support at the national level,” Albright declared. “But we shouldn’t rely on them to make the message right. This is why we create our own message.”