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Black women in Georgia crucial to Democrats in fight for Senate control

Leadership by Stacey Abrams, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, LaTosha Brown, Nse Ufot and a trusted force of black female voters who overwhelmingly voted for President-elect Joe Biden will continue to be critical of Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the U.S. Senate on January 5th.

Black female leaders and organizers say years of registering drives run at churches and community events, and knocking on doors in the black and Latino neighborhoods paid off when Biden and President-elect Kamala Harris won Georgia.

And they think they can do it again.

For the next six weeks, black women said they would use the same strategies in addition to reaching voters who sat outside the general election to help Warnock and Ossoff win their race.

“We have done it before and we will do it again,”

; said Ufot, CEO of the New Georgia Project, a non-partisan voter registration group founded by Abrams in 2014. “Never before in my lifetime have Georgian voters been more important. for the state of this nation. ”

An estimated 5 million Georgians voted in the presidential election, including 1.2 million black voters, according to the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.

According to exit polls, 92% of black women in Peach State voted for Biden.

But Warnock and Ossoff may face an upward battle as Republican voters in Georgia historically show up in higher numbers for run-off elections, political analysts say. Their Republican challengers also cost them about $ 109.5 million to $ 88.2 million as of Friday.

Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, said Democrats need to leverage their success in the presidential election to galvanize voters in the Senate runoff. Part of that strategy requires relying on black female leaders and organizers to encourage voters with a low propensity to vote, Gillespie said.

“It’s really simple, it’s just making sure you’re actually asking people to show up to vote,” Gillespie said. “They just have to cultivate the same soil that they’ve been working on for the last decade in the hopes that they can reverse the trend of Republicans doing extremely well in elections.”

Black female organizers received much of the credit for Biden’s victory in traditional red Georgia with their grassroots efforts to register new voters in color communities and combat voter oppression with voter education.

The road to turning blue

Abrams, a Democrat who narrowly lost to Georgia’s government Brian Kemp in 2018, has been hailed for having registered about 800,000 new voters in recent years and challenged the state’s electoral system that allowed voter cleansing and long lines at predominantly black areas.

Abrams and other black women have recognized Georgia’s growing diversity and seen a way to make the state blue.

The state’s share of eligible black voters grew by 5% between 2000 and 2018, according to the Pew Research Center. The proportion of eligible Latino voters grew by 3% over the same period. Meanwhile, the state lost 10% of the eligible white voters.

On Thursday, Abrams performed in the Verzuz music match between rappers Jeezy and Gucci Mane, seen by at least 1.8 million people, to encourage viewers to vote in Georgia’s runoff election.

“Right now we can at least make sure everyone shows up to vote, so we have two senators (Warnock and Ossoff) to make sure we have Covid answers and we have stimulus money returning to Georgia. . “

SHORT: See election results for 2020

Ufot said she has spent the past six years knocking on doors, hosting events and sending mass text messages to encourage young and colored people to register and participate in elections. The New Georgia project managed to register 500,000 new voters during that period, she said.

Ufot also urges voters to vote for the post and is prepared to challenge any repression effort.

“We go wide open in these eyes,” she said.

Brown, co-founder of the Atlanta-based Black Voters Matter, has also spent years educating black voters in Georgia and other southern states about the importance of voting.

Brown said the turnout, especially among black women, in the presidential election was the result of several campaigns led by black women and multiracial coalitions.

“I think black women were very focused and very determined,” Brown told CNN. “We had to do everything in our power to really be able to pull our society together. And really, we emerged not only as voters, but as political strategists.”

The credit is long overdue

Georgia Democratic state senator Nikema Williams, who was elected to succeed the late U.S. rep. John Lewis of the 5th Congressional District, said the credit to black women for providing elections to Democrats is long overdue.

“Black women did not just start playing a critical role in Democrats winning elections,” Williams said. “Black women have always been the backbone of the Democratic Party, but what we are seeing now are people digging into the data and acknowledging us for what we have done.”

Williams said she expects to see a continuation of the efforts led by black women ahead of the presidential election, including events to register voters, speak at sorority meetings and historic black colleges and universities, and talk with voters about what is at stake. in the election. Black women, she said, must also reach out to voters who did not vote in November to convince them that Biden’s victory shows that their votes count, Williams said.

Viola Hardy, a black woman from Marietta, said she is inspired by the work black women have done to show voters in Georgia.

Hardy said she has posted on social media, made phone calls and sent emails urging her friends, family members and neighbors to vote in the upcoming runoff.

Without control of the Senate, Hardy said it would be difficult for Biden and Harris to address issues affecting black women, such as abortion rights and equal pay.

“I ask people to do the same thing they did in the parliamentary election, which is to go out and vote,” said Hardy, a 48-year-old real estate agent. “We have our first black female vice president. If nothing else, let’s show her that we have a voice and that we speak loud and proud so she can be able to leave a great legacy.”

CNN’s Eryn Mathewson and David Wright contributed to this report.

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