Story at a glance
- Stacey Abrams and grassroots organizations across Georgia helped to register more than 800,000 new voters in the once-red state.
- Voters across the country watch as President-elect Joe Biden and President Trump face off tightly in Georgia, with Biden up by more than 12,000 votes.
- Abrams has already raised $6 million for the upcoming Georgia Senate runoff elections in January.
- The runoff elections in Georgia may be the single deciding factor on whether or not Republicans maintain a majority in the Senate, and they are fighting hard.
Stacey Abrams first turned heads in 2018 when she ran for a spot in the governor’s mansion in Georgia against her Republican opponent Brian Kemp. After a narrow loss of fewer than 55,000 votes, Abrams never officially conceded, contesting that Kemp, who was then secretary of state, had been involved in an act of widespread voter suppression.
Her concerns had actually begun years before in 2013, when the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 — originally put in place to protect the voting rights of minorities as they registered and headed to the polls. Since the decision, nearly 10 percent of polling places in the state were cut, and Black voters were disproportionately affected as they are more likely than White voters to vote in person.
Kemp defended his 2018 win and argued that he has not improperly purged 340,000 voters from the rolls, claiming that "despite any claim to the contrary, it has never been easier to register to vote in Georgia and actively engage in the electoral process." The Republican has continually framed Abrams and her supporters as “left wing radicals.”
Not backing down
Despite Kemp’s denial of any wrongdoing, the controversy shined a spotlight on the red state’s election system and helped shift Democrats’ attention to voter registration, education and turnout in Georgia. Abrams led that charge, launching an organization called Fair Fight that was designed to train voter protection teams in states across the country and educate young voters of color on the issues at hand.
“Voter suppression happens anywhere," Abrams said on Tuesday, according to CBS News. "We changed not only the trajectory of Georgia, we changed the trajectory of the nation. Because our combined power shows that progress is not only possible, it is inevitable."
Fair Fight joined a growing number of grassroots organizations that were united in their purpose to pump up voter registration across the state and get them to the polls on election day. The result has been at least 1 million new voters registering in Georgia since 2016, helping to solidify Biden's unprecedented lead in the state during last week’s presidential election. Many Black voters in Georgia say they were motivated to vote in person by Abrams’ gubernatorial fight against Kemp two years ago.
"Stacey has tirelessly worked to get Joe Biden and the Democratic National Convention to pay attention to Georgia, spending years organizing and strategizing to make sure Georgians have their voices heard at the polls," said Nsé Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, an effort launched by Abrams in 2013 to grow the electorate. "We wouldn't be in the position we are in today without her leadership."
The peach state turns purple
Republicans on Sunday were cautiously optimistic about their chances of securing their Senate seats in Georgia, which would allow them to maintain a majority and serve as a check on President-elect Biden and the Democratic-controlled House. But, with none of the candidates securing more than 50 percent of the vote, the Senate is now deadlocked at 48-48 as the nation grips their seats waiting for the Jan. 5 runoff elections.
Abrams has continually expressed an optimistic view on the runoff elections since this weekend, telling CNN on Sunday that she wants to “push back against this anachronistic notion that we can't win in Georgia."
Georgia has voted Republican in eight of the last nine presidential elections, but may no longer serve as a reliable win for red candidates after the diverse voter growth the state experienced thanks in part to the efforts of Abrams.
"With a diverse, growing population and rapidly changing electorate, Georgia is not a future opportunity for Democrats; it is a necessity right now," Abrams wrote in a 2019 document filled with data and trends on Democratic voters in the state. "Georgia is every bit as competitive as perennial battleground states. With one of the youngest and the most African American electorate of any competitive state, Georgia has demographic advantages that don't exist in other states."
Meanwhile, Republicans have also been outspoken about their hopes for a win in Georgia this January and don’t seem like they will be going down without a fight.
“The future of the country is at stake in Georgia. The January runoff gives voters another opportunity to reject the socialist agenda of Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and their far-left backers,” National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesperson Nathan Brand told Fox News.
“Radical national Democrats like Stacey Abrams, AOC and Chuck Schumer will stop at nothing for complete unchecked power, but Republicans will hold the line in Georgia and reelect Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler to protect the Senate majority.”
While Republicans continue to campaign hard to protect that precious majority, Abrams, who has already helped to raise more than $6 million dollars for the runoff elections, said the races will most importantly be the determining factor of "access to health care and access to justice in the United States."
“Together, we have changed the course of our state for the better,” Abrams wrote on Twitter. “But our work is not done.”