High school senior Kayla Sheriffe, 18 will be voting for the first time this election. Photo by Donnell Suggs/The Atlanta Voice

Georgia has been a political battleground for the last six years. The film industry has brought in a flurry of new voters, primarily liberal aligned, creating a tug of war with the majority conservative voter base within the state. The migration associated with the $4 billion film industry has brought a new batch of voters to Georgia, with the majority moving to Atlanta. 

In recent years, young voters have become vocally disillusioned with the election process, especially in the age of Bernie Sanders, whose outsider appeal was well received among the masses of younger Democrats. On the other end, you have former President Donald Trump, whose rhetoric either jumpstarted young conservatives to vote or served as a bat signal, beckoning all the outspoken youth to vote against him. Whatever the case, the young voters showed up during the 2020 Presidential election, turning the state of Georgia blue. The question heading into a midterm election is whether they do the same this year? 

The 2020 election was unprecedented in Georgia. The young Atlanta turnout was high among voters, who have historically had the lowest voter turnout of any demographic. In the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement research, young voters accounted for 21% of Georgia’s votes. That is up 5% since 2016. 

“It’s important to have a voice in our community; there is so much lack of representation, not just in Atlanta, but in the state,” said Brooke Shelton, a junior at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta. “So without people who look like us in Congress, The House of Representatives, and the Senate, we won’t get anywhere.”

Shelton serves on the Youth Council of Atlanta, which was recently seen at Democracy Fest 2022, a field day put on by the Atlanta Public School System to encourage juniors and seniors in the Atlanta area to register to vote. 

First time voters in Georgia will have the opportunity to have their voices heard about who becomes the next governor, secretary of state and attorney general, among other important roles.

“With me, I watch the news and I see what’s going on in the world, so I know that as long as you vote you are doing your part,” said Kayla Sheriffe, 18, a senior at Elite Scholars Academy in Jonesboro. “If you don’t attempt to vote you can’t complain about what you don’t like.”

The young vote has become essential this November due to the passing of SB202 which has further restricted voting access in Georgia. 

SB202 makes absentee voting more difficult by shortening the time to request and fill out a ballot, limiting the number of and access to drop boxes that require identification. The reduction in drop boxes will primarily affect the state’s metro-Atlanta areas, which are home to many young people of color. 

“It is essential that we make sure our voice is heard, no matter what stands in our way.  We have often accepted less, but now is a time where we shouldn’t,” said Keymari Jones, junior at Georgia State University. 

The passion in these young voices are the very reason why elections are critical. Whichever this election goes, it will be a battle unlike any other that came before it.