This year has brought a litany of firsts: the first global pandemic in a century to shut down the United States, the first time in this millennium that Georgia is a “blue” state in a presidential election, and the first African American woman elected to vice president of the United States, just to name a few.
And today marks the historic runoff for two Senate seats, and the outcome is all up to Georgia. Historically, only a portion of the general election voters returns to the polls to cast their ballot in runoff elections. The difference is this runoff will help determine the party in power in a Congress that will be immediately responsible for legislation on health care, jobs and the economy, education, affordable housing, police accountability, criminal justice reform, voting rights, women’s rights, and more. As evidenced by data from the secretary of the state’s office, no one is more aware of this reality than Georgia voters.
Voter registration and turnout numbers — 3 million voters voted early and 76,000 new Georgia voters registered in time for the runoff — signifies the unprecedented sense of urgency and passion that Georgians are feeling. Georgia voting volume is on track to defy historical trends of general-to-runoff election turnout ratios.
Yet, some politicians are challenging election outcomes and have resorted to pressuring state officials to re-evaluate election outcomes. Those who falsely claim the election was rigged use tactics ranging from discrediting the U.S. Postal Service, to questioning certain voting ballot machine accuracy, to rejecting overall counts.
Communities of color already disproportionately affected by the pandemic — in terms of standard of care, unemployment brought on by COVID-19, and the accelerated vaccine development and distribution — is also targeted by voter suppression and intimidation tactics.
Since the end of the Civil War, the Black church has been a critical institution within the pro-democracy movement. Collectively serving as a general for justice, the Black church continues to be a refuge for the oppressed and a force with which to be reckoned on the issue of racial and economic equality through the power of the ballot. Addressing the pressing matters at hand, our work ranges from barrier-breaking citizenship education to actively ensuring voter accessibility, registration, and mobilization.
The reported suppression tactics of this election cycle, such as poll location changes without notification and unreasonable identification requirements, only confirm that much is at stake. The November election shows that every vote counts, and a vote for nothing is a vote for something.
Whether post-Reconstruction or the post-Obama era, our Constitution is now as it was then: Every vote is valuable and every American deserves to exercise that right peacefully.
Across the state of Georgia, from Columbus to Augusta and Atlanta to Savannah and Valdosta through Albany, we must hold America to its promise of liberty and justice for all — through our vote, as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would remind us.
Georgians are serving as well as voting at the polls. They serve as poll workers to help guide voters through the process, as drivers to get people to the polls, and as poll chaplains who provide moral support for those who want to cast their vote without hesitation or fear. In other words, Georgians are loudly and clearly embodying King’s sentiment to “give us the ballot,” and we will do our part.
While we are more than 50 years after the civil rights movement and the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, in the spirit of the late member of Congress John Lewis, we will continue “getting into good trouble” and fight to protect our democracy and the sacred, fundamental right to vote.
Whether Republican or Democrat, we know that your vote is your voice. Now, let’s keep lifting every voice and sing!