Over the past two years, many political media outlets have been praising the big names like Michelle Obama and Patrisse Cullors for changing the political landscape of states like Georgia, Arizona and Pennsylvania. And while they do deserve credit, organizers, the people on the ground making things happen, often get left out of the conversation.
When I first moved to Georgia, I noticed that I was in an area that was historically significant in civil and voting rights. I wanted to be a part of the mission to combat suppression amongst people just like me. I’ve joined many different movements and organizations that helped me get familiar with the work and decided to become an organizer myself. Organizers have been around longer than you’d think. The work that current organizers are doing is similar to those that ignited the abolition movement and ended Jim Crow. Young people all over the world have long been trusted by organizers to use the right to vote to elect someone who wants to implement long-term change to our societies.
The passion of those organizers in Georgia stems from not only the 2018 gubernatorial race that Stacey Abrams lost, but also the threat of financial stability, health disparities and police violence that we saw first hand in the 2020 Ahmaud Aubrey case. Once I was able to understand the influence that voting had on every other socioeconomic issue, I knew that I had to use my voice to mobilize and organize young people.
In 2018, Abrams lost the gubernatorial race by under 55,000 votes to Georgia’s current Governor, Republican Brian Kemp in the midst of widespread reports of voting issues within the state. 53,000 individuals had pending registrations due to the state’s “exact match” law, which requires manually written signatures — over 80% of those registrations were Black citizens and at least 15% were young voters. Using some of the most notable young organizers throughout the state, a new organization, Fair Fight, was created to establish safe and fair elections for all. The organization combined with the New Georgia Project, ProGeorgia and The People’s Agenda to target Black and brown communities and especially students and get them registered to vote. After increased efforts, Abrams, Tameika Atkins, Helen Butler, Nse Ufot and other organizers registered over 800,000 new young voters and made sure every vote counted.
Recently, Abrams has declared her run for Governor in the Georgia 2022 Gubernatorial election, and she will have young organizers in front of her. Incumbent Brian Kemp and former Senator David Perdue have announced plans to run as well.
Young voters are essential to this election — they make up many of those “hard to reach” areas when it comes to politics. As shown in the electoral maps, Georgia is on its way to turning permanently blue because counties such as Chatham, Clayton, Cobb, Fulton, Dekalb and Gwinnett are shifting Atlanta’s votes by nearly 2%. And in Athens, Savannah, Macon, Columbus, and Augusta, the tides are also turning.
Organizing has already begun in Georgia and Ignite National Atlanta fellow Christine Williams let us know that young women are at the forefront of fighting against voter suppression and she will continue to organize in Georgia to ensure that young Black and brown voters will cast their ballots. In her experience, she noticed that “college students tend to feel intimidated when it comes to voting because of lack of education.” The organization she is a part of and other organizations have made it their mission to increase the knowledge of voters so that this does not remain an issue for new voters. Organizers are pushing early voting, especially for young and new voters.
As mentioned in the University of Georgia Georgia Voters Survey, voting early helps prevent any voting discrepancies that may be faced on Election Day and increases the chance of avoiding any issues. Day-of voting issues like wrong addresses, voter ID requirements and long lines can be avoided with early voting. Sometimes, voting early actually determines what is on the ballot in November as some primaries include multiple candidates for a certain party. In many instances, ballots do not only include people, but also questions on legislation that may require your input. In past years, we’ve seen a record turnout of early voting and increased voter participation. Sometimes, voting early can be more convenient for the youth.
If you plan to vote, don’t wait, Georgia primary early voting has already started, and the general primary is on May 24th. You can find your early voting location and more information here.