Local, Politics

Georgia Advocates Hope Young Black Progressive Voters Can Swing Senate Runoffs

Nearly 90% of young Black voters cast their ballots for Jon Ossoff in the general election, according to CIRCLE.
Nearly 90% of young Black voters cast their ballots for Jon Ossoff in the general election, according to CIRCLE.
Credit Ben Gray / Associated Press

For doctoral student Jayme Beasley, 27, the environment is just one issue top of mind this election.

“Water is a human right. Accessibility to water and affordability to water is a human right.”

The political science student at Clark Atlanta University says issues such as climate change are getting her to vote again in Georgia’s January runoffs. 

Voters under 30 years old in Georgia came out in record numbers to cast their ballots in the general election. And political parties and advocates want to make sure young progressive voters have the same energy to show up to polls again for the runoff races.

Data shows that young voters made up 20% of Georgians who cast ballots in the general election, according to the non-partisan Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning Engagement, or CIRCLE, at Tufts University. And those votes, especially from young Black voters, helped President-elect Joe Biden clinch the state in November. Democratic candidates want to make sure these voters show up again.

“Young people are mobilizing to vote because young people recognize that the future of our planet is at stake. So for the whole TikTok family out there, make a plan to vote,” said democratic candidate for U.S. Senate Jon Ossoff, 33, during a televised debate this month. 

Nearly 90% of young Black voters cast their ballots for Ossoff in the general election, according to CIRCLE. And more than half-a-million Black voters under 30 years old are registered in the state – that’s one-third of all young voters in the state, according to the organization.

As of this report, more than two million Georgians have already voted. The outcome of the Senate runoffs will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. And young voters in Georgia can have a huge impact on how the elections swing.

For Alexis Harris, 26, also a Clark Atlanta doctoral student, this election is a chance to give Biden an assist.

“I think the main thing that’s got me out here and really excited about the runoffs is this idea that my boy Biden is gonna need some help,” Harris says before laughing. “He can not do this with a red Senate.”

Alaina Reaves is the Black Caucus Chair of the Young Democrats of Georgia, which engages voters under 40 years old. She hopes that this enthusiasm about the election translates to more engagement from young Georgians year-round, especially voters disillusioned with the Democratic party.

“If [you]whole-heartedly believe there needs to be change,” she says of the party. “If we want to see change in the Democratic Party,’ she says “you have to become a part of the movement, a part of the system that you want to see changed.” For Reaves, that means young Georgians getting more involved with the party at the local level.

“I tell everybody, go to your local party meetings,” Reaves said. “If you’re mad that your county isn’t doing this, [ask] what is your county party is doing. [Ask] how you can be involved on that level.”

Progressive voters in Georgia hope Biden’s narrow win in the state also means wins in the U.S. Senate.

___________________________________________________________________________

Behind This Story 

Roxanne Scott produced this story as part of the America Amplified initiative using community engagement to inform and strengthen local, regional and national journalism. America Amplified is a public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Roxanne Scott, along with producer Maria White Tillman held three virtual events in December to learn more about what voters are thinking in Georgia’s runoff elections. Speaking to this group gave us insight into what issues are motivating young Georgians to cast a ballot again for the January 5th runoff races.