For too many years, Georgia’s conservative leaders have gotten used to cherry picking their voters. Instead of trying to appeal to a wider swath of voters, they have worked to deny voting rights to those Georgians whom they don’t care to represent, especially Black people. Thanks to extensive voter suppression tactics — from purging voters from the rolls, to withholding voter registrations under an “exact match” law, to shutting down precincts – these officials have worked, too often successfully, to suppress our votes.
All that changed in November. Thanks to a historic public mobilization that overcame a global pandemic and a concerted effort from Trump and his allies to steal and discredit the election, Georgia voters delivered an undeniable warning to our conservative leaders: we will overcome your attempts to silence us and we will not rest until our elected leaders represent the will of the people.
Now, as we head into the January runoffs, Senators Perdue and Loeffler are focusing all their energy on promoting baseless claims about the election and limiting access to the ballot box. Both Perdue and Loeffler have refused to recognize the results of the election. Even as more than 10,000 Georgians have lost their lives to COVID-19, Georgia Republicans are already working to walk back the measures taken to make voting safer in the face of the pandemic, recently unveiling a plan to restrict vote-by-mail and roll back the election laws that facilitated record-high turnout in the state in November. This move comes on the heels of a decision made by election officials in Cobb County to cut early voting locations by half ahead of the Georgia runoffs, which will disproportionately affect voters of color.
These suppression efforts are a response to the shifting power dynamics in Georgia: our representatives are afraid of our power and want to curtail it. Because of a multiracial coalition of Black, Brown, Gold, and progressive white voters, Georgia went blue in November. You see it in the numbers: our state had more than 6.6 million registered voters in 2016; this year, it reached an all-time high of 7.6 million, with registrations among Black, Latino, and Asian voters booming.
These changes didn’t happen overnight. Our communities have been organizing across Georgia for years to ensure every eligible voter can cast a ballot, every vote is counted, and results are protected. Young voters, Black, Brown voters, and Gold voters are Georgia’s future and they are voting for a vision many of our current leaders do not want to acknowledge.
The defenders of the status quo have seen what Georgians can do when we all turn out to vote, and that’s why they’re scared. After years of trying every trick in the book to suppress our votes, it’s no longer a strategy they can rely on. We are fighting back by registering hundreds of thousands of new voters, building bridges with communities of color across the state, offering free rides to the polls, ensuring these votes count, and encouraging people of faith across Georgia to bring their values into the voting booth. We will also continue advocating for reforms to curb attempts to suppress the vote. This starts with protecting the measures that were taken in Georgia to expand vote-by-mail and early voting in the lead-up to November and beyond. Georgia’s elected leaders in Congress must also push for legislation to shore up voting rights, like the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and demand that the federal government aggressively enforce the Voting Rights Act while punishing violations of election law we see here.
Conservative lawmakers and candidates have made it clear they have no intention of winning fair and square. But voters get to choose their representatives, not the other way around, and in Georgia, America’s newest battleground state, campaigns will have to fight for every vote. We won’t stop organizing until every eligible Georgian can cast a ballot free from intimidation and interference, until “every voter, every election” is the standard.