Democrats see 'huge opportunities' as voter registration soars in Georgia


Many of the new voters are people who tend to vote for Democrats, such as racial minorities or people under the age of 30.

Over the past 11 months, more than 350,000 residents registered to vote in Georgia, according to a Tuesday report from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Georgia now has almost 7.4 million registered voters, which is the most the state has ever seen.

Of the newly registered voters, 47% self-identify as racial minorities and 40% are under the age of 30. According to surveys of voters, these two groups are much more likely to support Democrats over Republicans.

Many of the new voters were added to the rolls thanks to automatic voter registration as residents obtain a driver's license. Thousands also came from voter registration drives in the state.

"Rapid population growth and changing demographics in Georgia provide Democrats huge opportunities," Lauren Groh-Wargo, Stacey Abrams' former campaign manager, told the AJC. "Each eligible Georgian who moves to Georgia and becomes a voter is more likely to vote Democratic than Republican."

Groh-Wargo is now a senior adviser with Fair Fight PAC, an Abrams-led effort to fight against voter suppression efforts around the country.

"People are getting ready for 2020. It is not a game," Tamieka Atkins, executive director for ProGeorgia, a group committed to increasing voter registration, told the AJC. "People realize the power of their vote, and they’re really eager to exercise it."

Georgia has a fraught history with voting rights. In the 2018 election, Abrams lost a close race to Brian Kemp, who at the time was the secretary of state. During the campaign, a voter protection group filed a lawsuit against Kemp alleging voter suppression efforts. Abrams spoke about Kemp's effort to suppress the vote by attempting to purge tens of thousands of Georgians from the rolls, a majority of whom were African American.

Kemp, a white man, defeated Abrams, an African American woman, by barely 1% in a state Trump carried in 2016 by only 5%.

Looking forward, many see Georgia playing a significant role in the 2020 elections on several levels. The Democratic National Committee recently named Georgia as one of 14 key battleground states in the presidential election. Georgia has not voted for a Democratic presidential nominee since 1992, but the party hopes 2020 can break that streak.

The state will also see not one but two Senate races next year. Republican Sen. David Perdue is up for reelection, and there will be a special election to replace the retiring Sen. Johnny Isakson, also a Republican. If a Democrat wins the White House, the party only needs to flip three seats to regain control of the Senate, bringing national implications to both Georgia races.

While Abrams was ultimately unsuccessful in 2018, Georgia Democrats did flip a marquee House seat when gun safety advocate Lucy McBath ousted Rep. Karen Handel in a district in the Atlanta suburbs. In 2020, Democrats hope to keep control of that seat and possibly flip another nearby district that they lost by a few hundred votes.

"We're seeing hundreds of thousands of new Georgia voter registrations because now more than ever, Georgians know the power of their voice," Maggie Chambers, a spokesperson with the Georgia Democrats, said in a statement. The explosion of voter registration numbers "are exactly why Georgia is a battleground state for 2020 — our state's population is growing and changing, and Georgia Democrats will hustle to make sure new voters are ready to turn out in record numbers for Democrats."

Last year, Abrams lost the race for governor by less than 55,000 votes. With 350,000 new voters on the rolls, 2020 could be wide open, making Georgia a state to watch next year.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.