Home Atlanta News Georgia grassroots coalition discuss mobilization, voter suppression, state’s future in post-election press call

Georgia grassroots coalition discuss mobilization, voter suppression, state’s future in post-election press call

by Atlanta Business Journal

Leaders from the New Georgia Project Advocacy Fund, CASA in Action, the Asian American Advocacy Fund and other grassroots organizations gathered via Zoom on Wednesday morning to discuss Georgia’s future following last night’s re-election of Sen. Raphael Warnock. 

The speakers spoke about the progress that their respective organizations witnessed over the course of the four weeks leading up to the runoff, as well as the progress they’ve seen since the state voted for President Joe Biden in 2020, by a slim margin of just under 12,000 votes. 

While votes are still being tallied and finalized, Warnock defeated his Republican challenger, Herschel Walker, by a significantly larger margin, the lead currently sitting at nearly 100,000 votes, according to data from the Secretary of State’s office.

Grassroots organizations played an instrumental role in re-electing Warnock to the Senate, as these groups organized canvassers and door knockers to motivate minority and progressive voters in the state to return to the polls one month after the general election.

Kendra Cotton, CEO of the New Georgia Project Advocacy Fund, said her organization knocked on over 840,000 doors in preparation for the runoff alone, and conversed with over 90,000 voters from the comfort of their homes. The coalition as a whole knocked on just under 6 million doors in Georgia within a three-week timeframe.

Cotton also said that the results of November’s election show that Georgia still leans Republican in terms of statewide races, despite the impressive turnout among Democratic voters in national races. She said the coalition’s work proves that progressive voters are present all across the state, in rural, urban and suburban areas alike.

“Black and brown folks live all over this state,” Cotton said. “And when we can reach them, invest in them and give them a reason – maybe for the first time ever in their lives – to turn out and vote, they are the ones that are going to make those red counties just a little bit more pink.”

Executive director of Care in Action, Hillary Holley, dedicated her remarks to congratulating Warnock’s campaign team on its win, as well as thanking the leaders, organizers, canvassers and members of other nonprofits who helped make the runoff results a reality. She said all the parties she credited were needed in order to yield a Democratic win on Tuesday.

“That’s the story of Georgia,” Holley said. “We work together, we talk to our people, and because of that, we’re a battleground state.”

Speakers praised voters for sparking record turnout for a runoff election in the state, while also shaming SB-202 for making it more difficult for Georgians to vote quickly and easily over the past five weeks.

Cotton said countless voters, particularly college students, never received fair opportunities to cast ballots, as many currently living out-of-state never received absentee ballots to submit before the state’s deadline. Her own daughter, a college student studying in Boston, had to fly to Georgia in order to vote in-person for the general election, upon not receiving an absentee ballot in the mail. 

Aisha Yaqoob Mahmood, executive director of the Asian American Advocacy Fund, said voter suppression was especially prominent during the early voting period of the 2021 Senate runoffs. Due to changes in absentee voting requirements, Mahmood and the AAAF heavily encouraged members to utilize in-person voting this year unless absolutely necessary. 

“We know that time and time again, early voting has long lines because we have such an important need for our communities to be able to access weekend and evening hours,” Mahmood said. “And in some counties where there was no weekend voting, we know that that was directly impacting working-class voters who can’t get away during the week to even access those early voting hours.”

Mahmood herself waited two hours to cast a ballot in Floyd County, due to her husband’s inability to return from work in time to vote before polls closed at 5 p.m. Mahmood also said absentee ballot drop boxes being rendered unavailable following the end of the early voting period adds another challenge to voters wanting to ensure their ballots are counted.

“There are so many components of SB-202 that get overlooked,” Mahmood said. “But I want to make sure that we talk about how it really impacts voters of color.”

All groups acknowledged that though re-electing Warnock is a huge accomplishment, the next phase of action is already in progress.

Luis Zaldivar, Georgia state director of CASA in Action, an organization dedicated to mobilizing Black and Latino voters, said Warnock earned his win from the multicultural coalition, as opposed to the coalition supporting him blindly. Speakers listed the issues they’d like to see Warnock address now that the Senate has earned a 51-49 Democratic majority. 

Holley said the coalition is advocating for many policies that were shot down during the previous Senate term, including paid leave for workers, investment in child care and services for elders and the disabled community.

“We need this to pass, because our people are hurting,” Holley said. 

Cotton said judicial appointments and student loan forgiveness also earned spots on the list of concerns for Democratic voters. With federal courts imposing challenges to President Biden’s executive order, Cotton said student loan forgiveness could instead push through the Senate to then be subject to congressional approval.

“We know that Georgians are ready for progressive change,” Cotton said. “And they made that clear in this election.”

Warnock took an early lead shortly after polls closed at 7 p.m. in the state, as early votes from Atlanta’s metro area were submitted en masse from poll workers in those respective counties. Walker gained sizable traction, and a narrow lead, as rural Republican counties submitted their results, but the Republican candidate failed to improve voter turnout from last month’s general election, opening an opportunity for Warnock to close in an early victory.

Media outlets NBC News and CNN called the race for Warnock at 10:21 p.m. and 10:25 p.m. on election night, respectively. The Associated Press called the race at 10:26 p.m.

Last night’s win earned Warnock an additional six years in the U.S. Senate, four of which will be spent alongside his 2020 Democratic running mate, Sen. Jon Ossoff.  

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