Georgia activists mobilized voters in an off year

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After mobilizing voters for several state elections last year, from the primary to the November midterms and then the Christmas runoffs, voting rights groups in Georgia say they have no time to relax. Organizers from New Project Georgia are hitting the streets and going door-to-door to register voters to continue expanding the state’s electorate, building on Georgia’s growing influence in national politics.

Keron Blair, the group’s chief field and organizing officer, is coordinating more than 50 organizers in an effort to speed up voter turnout at a time when many voters are disaffected.

According to Blair, the New Georgia Project is on track to register 40,000 new voters this year alone. Once registered, the group turns to recruiting new voters and offering issue-based education to ensure turnout for the 2024 presidential election.

“This work is always ongoing,” Blair said. “It’s not years away, and we’re hitting the ground running so that when we call our voters in these big moments, they’re educated enough to understand the importance of the moment, and they show up and deliver every time.”

Voting rights organizers across Georgia have built a strong multi-issue coalition over the past decade. Now, the organizations within this coalition are expanding their approach to voter engagement, looking for new ways to develop and strengthen the state’s electorate and build momentum throughout the year.

One critical role of voting groups in the off year is to push back against the new restrictive voting laws. Since the US supreme court struck down section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, a section designed to discourage discriminatory voting practices, hundreds of new voting laws have created restrictions. But the decision inspired new voting rights advocates and organizations that work between election cycles to fight these changes.

document in hand that says 'do you need a trip to vote'

A member of the New Georgia Project prepares to encourage voter registration in Atlanta. Photo: Alyssa Pointer/Reuters

In Georgia, organizers like Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter Fund, are working around the clock to fight the new laws. As the state is now seen as a political battleground, tensions have increased between those who want to expand access to the ballot and those who want to restrict it.

“We cannot always be in a battle to stop voter suppression efforts during election season,” Albright said. “We have to think about: how do we even change the dialogue and go in the other direction from being more expansive and having more people with voting rights and more protections – instead of federal action that’s unlikely to happen in our presence. Congress.”

Related: Jasmine Crockett, US champion for voting rights: ‘I need everyone to feel a sense of urgency’

Georgia’s increasingly diverse electorate sent Democrats to the US Senate twice in the past two years and helped propel Joe Biden to the White House. Aunna Dennis, executive director of Common Cause Georgia, said Georgia’s shifting political demographics made the work even more important.

“The power of the ballot is so important and so critical in Georgia because people don’t realize that we are the battleground state of the south,” she said. “Georgia goes down, a lot of other states go down too.”

Suffrage organizers say they are looking for new ways to expand their reach and increase their ability to enact change beyond the regular election season. However, with new laws like SB202 adding regulations to how advocacy organizations can interact with voters, it takes more work for organizers to strategize mass engagement efforts.

Black Voters Matter Fund and its voting coalition partners hosted large-scale voting parties near key polling places during the midterm elections. They had to change their typical approach to support voters waiting in line, as SB202 prohibited voter participation in and around polling locations.

“Actions like this require additional capacity,” Albright said. “We have to manage that and build that way upfront.”

Marchers dance during the Black Voters Matter march from Selma to Montgomery last year.

Marchers dance during the Black Voters Matter march from Selma to Montgomery last year. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Beyond on-the-ground voter engagement, voting rights organizations must also respond to the need for increased voter education, using year-round efforts to inform voters of legislative changes that affect your voting rights.

“It’s basically the same as it’s always been: reach out to voters and meet them where they are,” Albright said. “But at the same time, education requires more work. It takes more people to be informed about the changes in the voting laws to prepare them for the time [to vote].”

Dennis, of Common Cause Georgia, said the group was analyzing HB200, a new bill that would change midterm elections in Georgia by introducing ranked choice voting. Organizers are trying to answer key questions including who will pay for the inevitable changes resulting from this potential legislation and the exact values ​​needed for candidates to win in elections using class preference voting. Dennis says the legislation helped the group better educate the voters when they were able to rely on the legislation.

“No matter the time of year, it’s about paying close attention to the laws that affect voters, taking the opportunity to gather the information that will affect their access, and working to best interests in mind,” said Dennis. “We are, of course, the center for boots on the ground work, but for us, the work is also getting our hands very wet with electoral reform work, like drafting legislation to create accessibility or even giving evidence, as we are. will for HB200.”

For other voting rights organizations, keeping communication open with voters, especially when there are no major elections, means an opportunity to look ahead and prepare for 2024. Blair at the New Georgia Project believes in smaller elections and political events like offer the State of the Union address. key moments to raise voter awareness.

“When we join the voting and we show as one tactic with the longer strategy to win the change, we know that our voters will show up,” said Blair. “At the moment, we are still going door to door using current issues to educate, engage and organize so that when the time comes for big elections, we have already built confidence within for our voters.”

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