Story at a glance

  • The U.S. Senate runoff elections finally took place this week, deciding whether Republicans would maintain control over the upper chamber.
  • Election results in Georgia handed victories to two Democratic candidates, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, tying things up for both parties.
  • Experts are giving credit to local grassroots efforts to get Black voters to the polls with helping to secure the historic wins for Democrats.

More than 1 million Black Americans cast their ballots in Georgia during the 2020 election. Then, organizations such as Black Voters Matter and the New Georgia Project got right back to work, doing all they could to rally voters to the polls once more for the state’s unprecedented Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.

The result was a record amount of Black voters showing up to have their say in the pivotal run — one that would decide whether the GOP maintains control of the Senate during the beginning of President-elect Biden’s tenure in the White House. In order to secure a 50-50 split for Democrats, Georgia voters would have to elect the blue candidate in each of the state’s two races, which they did. 

Blue victories in the Peach State

Yesterday, it was officially announced that Georgia voters handed victories to both Democratic Senate candidates, Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. 

Their wins were not only historic for Democrats but also for people of color, as Warnock, a senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist church, became the first Black senator from Georgia, as well as the first Black Democratic senator in a former Confederate state since Reconstruction. It’s also worth noting that Ossoff has become the first Jewish senator from Georgia and will be the youngest sitting U.S. senator at age 33.

Of the Black voters that cast their ballots on Jan. 5, 93 percent of them supported Warnock and Ossoff. Warnock won 92 percent of Black voters against opponent Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) according to data from NBC, while Ossoff earned 92 percent of Black voters on Tuesday as compared with a slightly lower 87 percent back in November. 

According to the Associated Press, more than 4.5 million votes were cast for the races, a number that shattered previous records and even contended with that of November’s election, when the state elected a Democratic president for the first time in nearly 30 years. 

Just weeks after this historic flip, local strategists and community organizers across Georgia are being commended for their boots-on-the-ground strategy that experts are saying helped lead Democrats to another victory. 

“Black runoff turnout was phenomenal and the [Donald] Trump base just couldn’t keep up,” tweeted political analyst Dave Wasserman.

Getting folks out to vote

Since November’s vote, these local organizers spent the last two months distributing hundreds of thousands of door hangers with voting instructions and crucial information about three main issues they hoped would resonate with Black voters: coronavirus relief, systemic racism and voting rights.

Then, on the last day of early voting, the group Black Voters Matter even hosted a “Collard Green Caucus” to serve a traditional Southern New Year’s meal near polling places to encourage voters to show up early. The Clayton County Georgia Black Women’s Roundtable, a nonpartisan civic engagement group, also did their part by distributing holiday food baskets in an attempt to make personal appeals to potential voters.

Critics are saying these highly personal strategies really resonate with voters, perhaps even driving Black voters to the polls who hadn’t cast ballots in November. In fact, more than 100,000 Georgians who didn’t vote in the presidential race requested a mail-in ballot for the runoff according to a state vote tracker. 

More data-driven proof that voters of color helped secure Democratic victories can be found in the fact that Republicans Loeffler and David Perdue received a solid 71 percent of the white vote, though turnout was slightly down from the general election.

Indeed, the number of Black voters has grown over the past two decades to now make up a third of Georgia’s electorate, according to the Pew Research Center. 

“A lot of people are told that Black people don’t vote,” Farin Robinson, a recent law school graduate in Douglasville, Ga., told The Washington Post. “Black people do vote, and we turn out in big numbers.”


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Published on Jan 07, 2021