Georgia’s youngest voters are showing up in large numbers in early voting ahead of the Dec. 6 runoff for that Senate seat, a trend that should help incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock as he fends off a challenge from GOP nominee Herschel Walker .
As of Monday lunchtime, voters 18-24 accounted for almost a tenth of early voters – more than millennials or the younger segment of Generation X voters, the Secretary of State’s office found when it tabulated the early voting.
In heavily Democratic counties of Cobb and Henry, in Atlanta’s increasingly blue suburbs, Generation Z voters made up the largest segment of early voters to date, the Secretary of State noted. Voting from the youngest voting bracket was particularly strong in Fulton County, where Atlanta is located, and student-heavy Athens County, which was named this year’s “South’s Best College Town” by Southern Living magazine.
John Della Volpe, a youth survey specialist, estimates that Generation Z (people born in 1997 and later) is doubling the voter turnout of Millennials (now aged 26 to 41) and “with their parents, who are largely from Generation X come from, perseveres”.
If the trend continues, Gen Z — who unilaterally and decisively backed Democratic candidates in the midterm elections — will establish themselves as a constituency to be ignored at the candidates’ peril. It would also send a message to parties and candidates in Georgia cementing its status as a battleground state.
The media “continues to spin this story that young people won’t show up” to vote. “They keep popping up,” says Keron Blair, director of division and organization for the New Georgia Project, a group aimed at empowering the “New Georgia” of Black, Hispanic, Asian American, LGBTQ and youth.
Cartoons about the Republican Party
The New Georgia Project Action Fund has knocked on 542,000 doors since Nov. 14 and aims to reach another 400,000 by next week’s runoff. In conversations with voters, young people in particular are concerned about threats to “body autonomy,” such as anti-transgender policies and rhetoric and abortion restrictions, Blair says.
The Georgia Supreme Court last week reinstated the Peach State’s ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy — before many women even know they’re pregnant. This renewed anger at the US Supreme Court’s June decision that allowed states to ban abortion — and motivated more young people to opt out and vote, Blair and other organizers say.
Organizers also attribute the increased turnout by young voters to a court win that allows for an early vote on Saturday. Because some students vote in their childhood districts, they were able to vote over Thanksgiving weekend while visiting family. Social media was full of videos of young people queuing for an hour or more over the weekend to cast their vote.
Vasu Abhiraman, senior policy counsel and associate political director of the ACLU of Georgia, was at the Georgia Tech campus in Atlanta, where he said he expects turnout from the 1,130 who voted on campus in the Nov. 6 general election to would “blow out”.
“The story of the weekend is turnout good, lines bad,” Abhiraman told reporters on a conference call. He said some people in the Saturday queue said it was the only day they could have chosen time.
Voter turnout gives no indication of which candidate young voters prefer. However, midterm exit polls show that Gen Z favored Democratic candidates by a 28-point margin over Republicans, arguably securing victories in tight races like the Senate race in Nevada and the governor’s race in Arizona — both won by Democrats became.
Warnock has been an assertive voice seeker among young people and will speak at a December 1 rally with former President Barack Obama, whose successful bid for the Democratic nomination began in 2008 by getting college students to vote for him in Iowa to support.
In the video, Walker was asked what he would say to people born after 1990.
“Well, first of all, they don’t know the grass isn’t greener on the other side, they think there’s a better place,” Walker said. “If they know another place that’s better than the United States of America, my goodness. The thing is, why don’t you go there or tell me … because now I can tell them there isn’t one.”
Walker said such people “didn’t deserve the right” to change countries, and if they left the country they would have to reapply for citizenship in the United States.
Aside from the youth’s strong performance, overall turnout was also unusually high, said Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer for the Office of the Secretary of State in a series of updates on twitter.
As of Monday noon, “we are seeing tremendous turnout in Early Vote,” Sterling wrote, after saying the day before that turnout was “busting doors.”
On Sunday, 86,937 people cast early ballots — well above the previous Sunday record of 37,785 on Oct. 25, 2020, he noted. That’s particularly notable given that the earlier date preceded the general election in a presidential year, while the current contest is a runoff between the bank holidays that doesn’t determine which party controls the Senate.
As of early Monday afternoon, the Foreign Secretary’s website reported that 181,711 people had cast early ballots. It wasn’t clear if a majority of Monday’s votes were included in that total.
Women accounted for 57.2% of the early voting reported as of Monday lunchtime, while black voters accounted for 46.3% of the vote. These numbers are good for Warnock as both groups tend to favor Democrats. However, since Republicans are more likely than Democrats to wait until Election Day to vote, these numbers could change slightly once all the ballots have been counted.
Early in-person voting will continue through Friday.