“Just as love is a verb, so is faith.” – Nannie Helen Burroughs
So what’s happening on the ground? Democracy reflects the people’s will, so we must make it easier to vote. After that, we must make sure everyone’s vote is counted. Georgia is in the midst of a concentrated and multilevel civic engagement effort to train, equip, and energize students of color to be future voters. If we are ready for the United States to bounce back from this global pandemic, economic, civil, and human rights crisis, we must embrace students of color. The truth is that candidates that support voting rights (VRA2) could capitalize on these new cultural voting trends and boost voter turnout in “at-risk” communities.
The use of quantified impression-based targeting, demographic data, and technological enhancements is value-added to traditional civic engagement tools. Still, it’s no substitute for voting rights, education, and economic justice. Supporting voting rights, education, and stimulus legislation make it possible to narrow the gap between the number of eligible voters and the number of actual voters by expanding the electorate. Now students of color may provide enough momentum to energize voters for this and future election cycles. After this, it won’t be long until leaders that support voting rights, education, and economic justice recapture, maintain, and extend their legislative margins in Georgia and other battleground states.
Students of color have the potential to ignite Georgia’s electorate. While fostering collaborations in communities that share the same interests, they generate enthusiasm in the electorate. The “sweet spot” is to engage students that are active offline and encourage them to be more active on-line and “vice versa.” Then, involve these supporters in a push to get their on-line networks to vote and be more involved in long-term civic engagement work like holding elected leaders accountable after the election.
The impact of students of color on the future of U.S. civic engagement will be huge for years to come. A national study shows VRA2 candidates leading their challengers among 18-29-year-old African Americans 91%-6% and Latinos 73%-13%. More importantly, 59% of African Americans and 31% of Latinos are enthusiastic about voting this year. Young voters trust one candidate more than the other to deal with “major issues” like immigration reform 45% – 25%. Among young women, the anti-voting rights candidate loses on issues of concern 53% – 20%.
These numbers are going to be even more critical in U.S. Senate races. In places where VRA2 politicians currently outnumber the others by 10 points, 59% of voters under 30 say that they will vote for VRA2 candidates. Note that in many states, VOC are over 31% of the citizen voting-age population, and they comprised over 28% of the electorate. Places like Georgia are now at the center of the political universe.
- As witnessed at the state level in 2012, this rising electorate helped give President Obama 46% (1,773,827) of Georgia’s vote – only a point off his 2008 performance.
- More importantly, the VOC vote share grew from 32% in 2008 to 37% for the first time.
- As a result, we now know that a candidate can successfully win a bid for U.S. Senator with support from only 35% of the rural vote.
In blue-collar states like Georgia, economic patriotism is multifaceted and far more complicated than a bumper sticker policy. For example, amid a persistent barrage of fractious issues stemming from a lack of quality education, financial freedom, and adequate healthcare, we must encourage and cultivate students of color. Looking deeper, we see how the stimulus package positively impacts young people everywhere. For many of us, having a job provided the sense of independence we needed to be responsible citizens, and after the recession, the stimulus package did the same. If you were lucky enough to have an employed family member before the recession, you not only benefited from their labor but the unemployment supplemental as well.
Watching our community members provide for their family gave us all a sense of pride and passion for helping each other. That’s probably why the stimulus package was so crucial for young voters in Georgia and other states. It’s always a momentous occasion when a young person gets their first job and votes for the first time. These are two of the early meaningful investments they make to own their future. Not to mention how voting is one of the longest-lasting investments made by young people.
- Georgia’s House District 111 (35% Black and 6% Latino with a significant youth population).
- This seat is in a county that gave President Obama 48% of the vote – just 2,925 votes from victory.
- Henry County has grown by 2.5% to 209,053, and cities like Stockbridge grew 2.5% to 26,281. Note that areas like this will have more than 14,000 “key” Voters of Color and could be decisive. Devoting resources to high performing VOC precincts here will give a tremendous return on investment.
What will be the long-term impact? Through redistricting, anti-voting rights politicians controlled politics for a decade. At one point, they held both of Georgia’s U.S. Senate seats, 9 of the fourteen congressional seats, the governorship, and both state legislative bodies. As a result, Georgia residents lived under political leadership that did not represent their interests. Can students of color repair the damage and turn it around? Yes. As the future of Georgia politics begins to take shape, there are new principles in play. These students have paid their dues and earned an upgrade. They deserve the best life has to offer and won’t settle for less. Politicians should match that in actions as well as words.
To be continued …
Kirk Clay is the President of Capitol View Advisors — a collaborative investing and acting on its values in creative and strategic ways to connect communities with the information and resources they need to support and further their aspirations.