Wednesday morning on the south interior steps of the Georgia State Capitol a group of Black men led by State Representative El-Mahdi Holly (District 111) addressed the media at a Black Men Vote rally. Early voting was top of mind when Holly said, “This is the time, this election cycle, that we all are together and we’re coming out to vote early.”
Holly spoke about ballot boxes not being readily available in certain rural counties and of Senate Bill 202 and how “It makes it harder for Black and brown people to vote,” he said. The message he and the nearly two-dozen men beside him wanted to send that morning was: We are coming out to vote and we are coming out to vote in record numbers. You saw those numbers in 2021.”
In 2021 Georgians elected the state’s first Black and Jewish Senators. Early voting was a catalyst for the level of support and turnout during a midterm runoff that was needed to get Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock and Senator Jon Ossoff into the Senate.
The crowd of senior citizens waiting inside the famous Cascade Family Skating on Atlanta’s west side Monday night was already dancing and singing before gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams took her place behind a podium in the middle of the rink. Abrams was there to encourage her supporters, mist of whom were seniors and female, to vote early. “The truth is in 29 days we are going to elect me as the next governor of Georgia,” she said to loud cheers. “We have a lot of opportunities in front of us, but there are a lot of people that don’t want that to come true.”
Tuesday afternoon at the Vicar Community Center in the West End, supporters waiting for Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock to arrive for a Women for Warnock event, listened to Democratic Georgia State Senator Donzella James encourage them to vote on Monday, Oct. 17, the first day of early voting. James, a member of the Georgia State Senate since 2009, spoke of the pratfalls that come with waiting to vote on Election Day and how voting early could ensure that their votes were counted. “If you need a ride to the polls, call me or call your neighbor,” she said. “October 17 is the day.”
The crowd at the community center, similar to the one at Cascade, was largely made up of senior citizens. The demographic seems to be the target of Democratic candidates looking to maximize voter turnout and avoid a runoff where voter turnout numbers have traditionally been lower.
This week, the week before early voting begins, has been crucial for candidates looking to retain and recruit the Black male vote and Black senior vote. Early voting remains a tool for candidates to not only encourage voter turnout, but to get supporters to the polls as soon as possible. The shorter lines and less anxiety involved than having to vote on Election Day is being used as an incentive to vote early It seems to be working year-to-year. In 2020 well over half-million people voted early (615,378).
“Our voting day should be Oct. 17 because on Election Day we don’t know what can happen,” Women for Warnock Chair Sophia Burns said to the crowd. Burns spoke about early voting before Warnock arrived and listed machine malfunctions, confusion with where your voting precinct might be located, and issues with registration as reasons to vote early and avoid problems.
Following the event in West End Warnock called early voting, “Critically important” and added that the issues people will be voting on are “too important and the stakes are too high to wait until Election Day. Early voting begins Oct. 17 through Nov. 4 and we would encourage everybody to vote early.”
Abrams has taken numerous opportunities to encourage her supporters to vote early as well. One of those supporters, Michael Howard, a resident of Collier Heights, was at Cascade Monday night. He said he was planning to vote early. “If I can make it out to vote next week there are no excuses for anyone else,” said Howard who recently suffered a stroke. “I want to make sure I have a say in who occupies the Governor’s Mansion.”
A list of early voting locations in DeKalb County, Fulton County, and Clayton County are on page 44 of Friday’s printed edition.