Georgia’s transformation into a swing state has been credited to black students. They’re now looking toward the midterms.
Students from Clark Atlanta University were seen trudging along the campus promenade on Sept. 20 as they went to their classes. A group of their peers gave a single directive: vote.
Janiah Henry (a Clark Atlanta University senior) said, “We wanted to ensure that we were in students’ faces.” She is also the chair of CAU Votes, its civic engagement initiative. We had interactive tables. “We had food trucks.”
For National Voter Registration Day, the group joined forces with local Greek fraternities and sororities as well as local non-profit organizations. Clark Atlanta University is just one of many historically Black colleges and universities throughout Georgia.
She said, “We were educating them about the midterm elections. We were ensuring that they could vote in the State of Georgia.” “We were able to register more than 500 students and get them to sign up to vote!”
Henry, 20 years old, said that she has supported civic engagement since she was 13, and she couldn’t have imagined how many young Black voters would rise to change Georgia’s political situation.
2018 was a year of change. 2018 saw a shift 2018. Black student voting fell by 5.3% between 2012 and 2016, with the highest proportion of young voters in the country.
Exit polls showed that 20% of the state’s votes went to young voters in 2020. This was even though 90% of Black youth cast ballots for Joe Biden. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life discovered that only 20% of those voting were from the younger age group. Georgia’s youth voter participation was the highest in the South, and it helped to turn the historically Republican state blue.
This win can be attributed in part to grassroots organizations such as the Campus Vote Project or Rise, the New Georgia Project that focuses on mobilizing young Black voters. As the Georgia midterms are near, student-led organizations are continuing to push this cause, maintaining momentum through everything, from social media challenges to voter events at HBCU homecomings, and many other activities.
It’s been amazing to watch. Henry acknowledged that every generation will be the next generation of leaders but that his age brings something unique to the table.
She said that organizing around the midterms was difficult because people don’t understand their importance of them. People often don’t realize that the reason they are frustrated in the primaries or the presidential election is that they haven’t paid enough attention to the midterms. This is why we try to educate students about the importance of this period. This is the message that we are sending to young Georgians.
It has been difficult to increase the number of Black youth voters. Voting rights advocates had to first understand why Black students were not voting. Through its HBCU Legacy Initiative, the Campus Vote Project partnered with NAACP Youth and College Division to publish a report in 2022 that highlighted multiple obstacles that prevented Black students from voting at HBCUs. These include a lack of funding and administrative support for civic involvement efforts, inconsistent outreach by political parties, and misinformation among students.
In response to the report, organizers started speaking with young Black voters using a targeted approach. This included live streams with Black leaders and campus tours to encourage voting. The organizers have increased their practical outreach and made it easier for students to register.
Ciarra Malone, Georgia’s coordinator for the Campus Vote Project said, “We’ve been trying to get early voting places on campuses.” This is super important because students often can’t make it to the precinct that’s designated for them between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Access to campuses is an important issue.
Malone, who graduated in 2020 from Kennesaw State University, stated that the group even provided Uber codes and transportation to students’ polling places. Malone said that students need information about how to register and where to vote, how to fill out absentee votes, create election plans, and research issues on the ballot is crucial to increase youth voter turnout.
She stated, “It’s trying to provide students with as much information as possible because disinformation can also be a real barrier to overcome.”
The New Georgia Project was one of the most passionate youth voter support groups in 2020. Abrams founded the organization and it focused on innovative ways to reach voters. This included sneaker giveaways and Twitch live streams with celebrity guests. Alana Moss, a research assistant with the New Georgia Project, stated that it was crucial to develop new strategies for mobilizing young Black voters.
Moss, 25, stated that “we understand we must meet young voters wherever they are.” We can achieve our goals by finding creative ways of reaching them. We want to link culture and voting.
This organization has partnered with schools such as Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College to create the Georgia Campus Voting Challenge. It encourages colleges and universities throughout Georgia to improve civic engagement and voter participation. Moss stated that this is crucial as young people voice their opinions about a variety of issues.
According to her, the research of the group has shown that the George Floyd protests in 2020 have further sparked civic engagement among the generation. Racial justice is still a hot topic on the ballot for young voters. Moss also mentioned gun violence, reproductive rights, and health care among the top issues Black youth prioritize ahead of the midterms.
Moss stated that “our team is aggressively out there in the community, knocking at doors and making sure we are having community discussions.” “We are continuing to monitor polls to identify the issues people care most about and to determine the barriers they face so that we can address those. We have plans to hire poll monitors.
What’s on the ballot
Georgia is now a battleground state. Voters will decide between Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock or Republican Herschel Walker to be senator, and Democrat Stacey Abrams or Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is running for governor.
According to Vlad Medenica (associate director of GenForward), a national survey that focuses on young voters, youth voter turnout has increased across the country from 2016 to 2020. According to Medenica, mobilization was key in Georgia’s remarkable youth voter turnout in 2020. He said, “That’s the big question this year, whether or not the political parties can talk to these voters and encourage them to vote.”
Medenica stated that young voters are most concerned about the same issues that plague society.
Medenica stated that inflation was the most important issue for young adults, especially
young Black adults. “Inflation has been a problem for all, particularly younger people who have to deal with higher grocery and gas prices, as well as rent payments. The majority of young voters are very sophisticated. They think about the things that will impact their lives.
He said: “In second place and third, especially among young Black voters, were gun violence and abortion, which are major issues in general. These issues are particularly important for young Black voters.
Georgia was one of many states to impose severe abortion restrictions following the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision in June. In July, a federal appeals court overturned a lower court’s ruling and allowed a restrictive abortion law to go into effect in Georgia. It prohibits abortions until a “detectable heartbeat” has been detected.
New polling shows Abrams is struggling to close the gap between Kemp and Warnock in a tight race against Walker. However, 2021 could be an indicator of future polls from young Black voters. CIRCLE reports that young people aged 18-29 voted for Democratic candidates in the 2021 Georgia Senate elections. Warnock voted 64%. CIRCLE reports that more than 90% of young Black voters supported Democrats in this election.
As organizers try to mobilize voters for the midterm elections, advocates argue that Black students at HBCUs should be seen as a vital, necessary voter bloc and not as a tool for political gain.
Dylan Sellers, Campus Vote Project’s HBCU Legacy Initiative manager, said, “They’re very active participants, fully participating in the civic process.” It’s more than just remembering they exist when it’s time to vote, or when you’re trying to find a Black population. It’s about treating them as full partners and including them in the current society.