First-time Georgia voters expected to impact Senate runoffs

CSRA News

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) — Millions of Georgians lined up to vote on Election Day in November. For Trayvon Johnson, it was a brand new experience.

“It was the first time I could legally take action that can drive something the way I wanted to go,” he explained.

Johnson did not have to wait much longer to vote again. He cast his ballot for the Senate runoffs this week.

“It actually felt really good and empowering.”

It is young voters like Johnson who Senate campaigns are targeting. About 23,000 Georgia teens are expected to turn 18-years-old before the January 5 election. That is 23,000 additional ballots which were not cast in November, but could make a major impact next month.

Political parties in the Augusta area see this as a huge opportunity. Jordan Johnson, the Chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, tells NewsChannel 6 his party tried to register “as many high school seniors as possible” before voter registration closed.

“It was a mix of working with schools when they were in session and utilizing tools known as hot spots,” Johnson explained. “We set up at different businesses and parking lots and registered folks. We targeted areas where people hung out at. What we saw was folks didn’t even know they could register to vote.”

Columbia County’s Republican Party targeted young voters and people who recently moved to Georgia as well.

“We have well over 100 people from various Republican organizations on the ground in this area knocking on doors, talking to people and reminding them how important this election is,” Debbie McCord, the party’s chairman, said.

Grassroots efforts underway

Grassroots organizations are jumping into the mix, too.

“We want to make participating in civic activism, as well as the voting process, more accessible, easy and fun,” Cate Mayer, the founder of Friends Vote Together, says.

In August, Cate Mayer founded Friends Vote Together, a group “dedicated to increasing voter turnout and civic action by rallying Americans to become more informed and educated citizens and voters.”

“If we only focus on registration and not on mobilizing voters, we’re not going to see the impact in this election as we did in the General,” she explains.

Friends Vote Together organizes text and phone banking, and uses another powerful tool — social media. Group members take part in digital door knocking — when a person reaches out to their social media friends/followers and encourages them to vote or register to vote.

“What’s powerful about this is you can do it on your own time. You can do it from home.”

Impact in Augusta

On average, fewer people vote in runoff elections than in General Elections. It is unclear if this trend will carry on into the upcoming election. Richmond and Columbia Counties have seen record turnouts during the Early Voting period so far. As of December 15, 35 percent more people voted in the first two days of Early Voting in Richmond County compared to the same time period in the General Election. Columbia County saw a 23 percent increase in voter turnout.

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