The early voting period has begun in Georgia and with it a race to secure votes before Election Day, November 8. A portion of those early votes can come from young voters ages 18-29, many of whom will be voting for the first time during this election.

During the 2020 Presidential election voters between the ages of 18-29 voted for President Joseph R. Biden 58% of the time with Donald J. Trump voters making up 39% of that age group. Overall the youth share made up 20% of the record number of votes that were cast. 

Monday night inside the Georgia State University Student Center a packed crowd greeted Senator Reverend Raphael Warnock as he took the stage. Waving ‘Students for Warnock’ signs, the crowd broke out into cheers and applause. “It’s the first day of early voting and you all sound like you’re ready to win this election,” Warnock said.

Warnock (on stage) said of early voting, “I am encouraged by the turnout I am hearing about today but we ned that to continue all the way to November 4. There’s too much at stake to wait until November 8.”

Whether voting for Warnock or Walker, Abrams or Kemp, or for candidates on any of the other down-ballot elections, the people of Georgia have already spoken with nearly 100,000 having voted early on the first day of early voting, according to data from the Secretary of State’s Office. In comparison, with more than three weeks to go, those numbers threaten to reach or top the 326,351 early votes that were cast in 2020 and the 299,347 cast in 2018. 

Warnock was the recipient of a strong early voting turnout during the January 2021 senatorial runoff but is looking to avoid having to do the same this time around. “I won the last time in a hard fought race I ran against the wealthiest member of Congress,” he remembered. 

Following the rally at Georgia State University he wanted to further emphasize the importance of early voting. “We are no longer talking about Election Day, it’s election season and that begins right now,” he said. “I am encouraged by the turnout I am hearing about today but we need that to continue all the way to November 4. There’s too much at stake to wait until November 8.”

Paramount Consulting Group founder & CEO Tharon Johnson talked to The Atlanta Voice about the momentum early voting creates and how Democrats, with candidates and voters, should feel like they are the leaders and not the followers.

“We need to stop and realize where we are as Democrats, we are in this posture that if we don’t do A,B,C or D then we’re going to lose. Well, we have to first come from a posture of we are the winners. We won in 2020, we won in 2021,” Johnson said. “We’re defending, we’re not the challenger, we’re actually the champion and we’re defending our crown.” 

The Atlanta Voice reporters at early voting locations in Clayton County and Fulton County reported long lines in the morning and afternoon at two locations. “I think a cure to a runoff is great voter turnout and that’s what I’m hoping for and pushing for,” said Warnock. “We certainly need students to turnout, but we need everybody to turnout. We need seniors to turnout, we need working people to turnout. We have built a mighty coalition, and it has fueled this movement and put us in the place where we are. We need the coalition to stand up in a moment like this so I can stand up for the people.” 

Campaign signs outside of an early voting location in Jonesboro, the county seat of Clayton County. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Can we sustain it?

Johnson uses the 2020 Presidential election and the January 2021 senatorial runoff elections in Georgia, in which the first Black and Jewish Senators, Warnock and fellow Democratic Senator Jon Ossoff, were elected to represent Georgia in the United States Senate as reasons Democrats need to celebrate recent success and maintain the momentum of a great first day of early voting. “Historically, the first fews days of early voting, Democrats always do a good job of turning out,” said Johnson. Can we sustain it? We sustained it in 2020, we sustained it in 2021.”

Before leaving the stage Monday night Warnock shared a story of writing a letter to his then five-year-old daughter Chloe following the confirmation of Kentaji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court. The oft-told story begins with Vice President Kamala Harris asking Warnock and Senator Cory Booker to write letters to female loved ones in their lives.

If you have followed Warnock on the campaign trail as much as this reporter has you have heard the story multiple times, but can easily be surprised by how well it lands time after time. Following the story, Warnock told the students that “We are teetering somewhere between January 5 and January 6.” The former was the day he and Ossoff officially became members of Congress, the later will live on in infamy.  “Are you ready to write a letter to the future?”

Early voting ends Friday, November 4.

Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Donnell began his career covering sports and news in Atlanta nearly two decades ago. Since then he has written for Atlanta Business Chronicle, The Southern Cross...