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US election: Democrats face a turnout test in Georgia's Senate runoffs

For Democrats to win control of the Senate, Georgia''s Black communities, as well as the state''s smaller Hispanic and Asian communities, likely need to vote in the January 5 runoff election

Joe Biden

There are signs that turnout in Georgia could indeed be high in the runoffs.

AP Atlanta (US)
In the first week of early voting for Georgia's Senate runoff election, Casie Yoder parked at a polling location in Cobb County and loaded miniature hand sanitiser bottles, knitted hats, hand warmers and face masks into a collapsible wagon cart.
Her goal: to help voters stay in line in frigid temperatures and cast their ballots in a pair of high-stakes runoff contests that will determine which political party controls the Senate next year. The runoffs will also test whether Democrats can again pull together the diverse coalition that propelled President-elect Joe Biden to victory in Georgia in November and cemented the state's status as a political battleground.
We've never had an election happen like this in December, said Yoder, the Georgia state captain for the Frontline, a nonpartisan electoral justice project of the Movement for Black Lives and other partner organisations.
For Democrats to win control of the Senate, Georgia's Black communities, as well as the state's smaller Hispanic and Asian communities, likely need to vote in the January 5 runoff election by history-making margins.
There is hope that the candidacy of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the Black senior pastor of the church where Martin Luther King Jr once preached, might help spur Black votes for both him and fellow Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff over the Republican incumbents, Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.
An Associated Press VoteCast survey of Georgia voters in November found that 22% of white voters chose Warnock and 28% chose Ossoff, compared to the 90% of Black voters who chose Ossoff and 73% who chose Warnock. Democrats also have an opportunity to capture the 15% of Black voters who chose Matt Lieberman, another Democratic candidate who competed against Warnock in last month's race.
There are signs that turnout in Georgia could indeed be high in the runoffs.
Through Wednesday, early voting data released by the office of Georgia's secretary of state show nearly 1.9 million voters have already cast in-person or mail-in ballots since voting opened last week. That's almost half of the total early votes cast in the November general election, with less than two weeks left before the Senate runoff concludes.
Roughly 75,000 people in Georgia have also registered to vote ahead of the runoff, with less than half of those self-identifying as white.
The old way of just thinking that white voters will determine statewide elections in Deep South states is rapidly fading, said Ben Jealous, president of People For the American Way, a progressive advocacy organisation that encourages civic participation.
Black, Hispanic and Asian American Georgians make up increasing segments of the state's registered voters rolls. According to a new Pew Research Centre analysis, Black registered voters here increased by about 130,000 between the 2016 presidential election and last month's contest, which was the largest increase of all major racial and ethnic groups in the state.
Although far fewer in number, Hispanic and Asian American residents have increased their registration every year for the last three presidential cycles, the Pew analysis shows.
Dolores Huerta, the American labour movement icon and civil rights activist, said the growing size of the Hispanic voting population, particularly among younger voters, has already shifted the organising strategy for races like the Georgia runoff.
For weeks, several Black and multiracial social justice groups, many of them flush with resources, have been canvassing Georgia communities and airwaves to drive the needed turnout. They're phone banking, sending texts, door knocking, and crisscrossing the state in tour buses and personal vehicles to reach Black and Hispanic Georgians. Many of them said they'll continue outreach through the holidays, putting their own Christmas and New Year's traditions on hold.
Last weekend, Grammy, Oscar and Emmy award-winning hip-hop artist and activist Common was among celebrities who made several stops throughout Georgia, including at a rally for Warnock and Ossoff.
Jealous's organisation last week launched a six-figure radio ad buy with the goal of reaching more than one million Black Georgia voters and especially Black men, who haven't voted in the same margins that Black women have, he said.
Similarly, the recently formed Black Lives Matter PAC this week began airing its first TV ad targeting Georgia voters on major broadcast network affiliates and a handful of cable channels.
The ad depicts a Black man out for a jog seeming to overcome the obstacles that might disenfranchise him. It evokes Ahmaud Arbery, a young Black man killed by white men in the coastal Georgia community of Brunswick last February, whose death helped spur this year's national reckoning on systemic racism.
The Rev. James Woodall, the Georgia NAACP president, said he appreciates the resources pouring in from outside of the state. However, he believes victory would come down to homegrown turnout efforts.
Georgians are organising Georgians, Woodall said.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Dec 24 2020 | 11:13 AM IST

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