Cindy Rodriguez: Back with you on The Takeaway, I'm Cindy Rodriguez in for Tanzina Vega this week. While Georgia's in the headlines because of Trump's pressuring of Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voters in the state are getting ready for their critical twin senate runoff elections tomorrow. The outcome will ultimately determine who gets control of the US Senate.
Democrats Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock are squaring off against their incumbent, opponents Republican senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler respectively. Three million Georgians have already cast their ballots during early voting. Though voters under 30 are usually among the least likely to participate in elections, the Washington Post reports that more than 281,000 young people have already voted in the runoffs and young voters are leaning Democratic in the State.
According to the Associated Press, about 6 in 10 voters under 30 backed Biden over Trump in November. For more on this, we're joined now by Nse Ufot, the chief executive of the nonpartisan New Georgia Project. Nse, thank you so much for joining us.
Nse Ufot: Thank you for having me. Hello.
Cindy: Hi. Nse, based on the November election, what do we know about the electoral impact of young voters?
Nse: Young voters are essential to any electoral outcomes in Georgia. What we've seen is that they've had historic levels of participation in our elections. A Tufts University study showed that over half the states in our country saw an increase in youth voter registration between the 2016 and 2020 elections. Georgia leads the country with a 35% jump in youth voter registration and in youth participation.
In an election where the difference between the winner and the loser was 0.25 percentage points, I would say the young voters are the difference makers.
Cindy: Wow, so 35%. I didn't realize that the youth vote is so strong in Georgia compared to the rest of the country. What is motivating these young people in Georgia?
Nse: Well, I would say that nothing focuses the mind like the credible threat of death. We are certainly living through a pandemic where there is a president who has told us to drink bleach, a governor who has lied about what he knew about COVID-19. I think the insult is even more acute amongst Georgia residents and Georgia voters because the CDC headquarters are less than three miles away from the governor's mansion.
An opportunity to save their own lives, I think is important. The number 1A issue at the top of young voters' minds has been racial justice and how we go about achieving it in their lifetimes.
Cindy: Have you looked at early voting? Can you tell where young people are voting? Is it just in urban centers, is it everywhere?
Nse: Yes, youth turnout is elevated across the entire state. That includes Metro Atlanta, that Fulton County, Atlanta, and its immediate suburbs. Also, we are seeing elevated turnout in what is known as Georgia's rural Black Belt. Imagine a prom sash going diagonally across the state of Georgia, that's the Black Belt. We're also seeing an increase in youth turnout there.
Cindy: There's early voting, but there's also just registering to vote. There was actually a surge of new registered voters between the general election and now. What does that say to you?
Nse: That says to me that all of our focus group tested, polled, messaging cannot compete with watching the entire world celebrate you for flipping a state. Georgia has been on people's minds. They've been tons of Ray Charles covers and the rhetoric. The media coverage has underscored how important their vote is and how essential Georgia voters showing up again is to saving our democracy, jumpstarting our economy, fighting fascism, et cetera.
That's what it says to me, that people are talking about Georgia and how important Georgia voters are and young voters are listening.
Cindy: Nse, you've been out in the trenches getting people to vote, but you also have been part of this investigation by Raffensperger. He's alleged that your organization is registering people who are ineligible. Can you talk about that a little bit?
Nse: That's just patently false. Unfortunately, Raffensperger is continuing a tradition of nonsense investigations that are designed to have a chilling effect on the work that we're doing because we've registered half a million Black, brown, and gold Georgians in all 159 of Georgia's counties. What he's referring to is a postcard program that we run. In the 72 hours after the Georgia elections were called, we received about 10,000 requests for volunteers to volunteer with the New Georgia Project.
One of our efforts for people who are out of state is this postcard to voters program. We send stacks of blank postcards, maybe 10, maybe 25, maybe 50. We send stacks of postcards to volunteers out of state. Often they will write a lovely handwritten note like, "Hey, the voter registration deadline is December 7th. It's important for you to vote." At their own expense, they affixed the stamp and send it to Georgia registrants who we believe are not registered to vote.
What happened was a stack of postcards was mistakenly delivered to a volunteer in New York. It went to the wrong recipient. The recipient took to Twitter, took pictures of the postcards, and said, "Hey, the New Georgia Project is trying to register me to vote in the runoffs," which is not the case at all. The bottom line is that as a part of our effort to reach out to voters at least 10 times each election cycle, we have a postcard program that volunteers across the country are eager to participate in.
If you receive a postcard that says, "Hey, we think you're not registered, but here's how you registered to vote. Go to the Secretary of State's website. If it doesn't apply to you. If you're ineligible, then you throw it away."
Cindy: Nse Ufot is the chief executive of the New Georgia Project. Nse, thank you so much.
Nse: Thank you.
Cindy: Now, let's get the view from someone doing this work on behalf of the Democratic runoff candidates. Emily Zanieski is co-founder of Students for Ossoff and Warnock. Emily, welcome to the show.
Emily Zanieski: Thank you for having me here today.
Cindy: Emily, you've been working with the two campaigns. What's at the top of your mind as a voter?
Emily: As a young voter, specifically, I care a lot about the issues. Specifically about how these two candidates and how the Republican candidates specifically reach out to young voters and make themselves available to us and to be able to talk with them. Throughout this whole time, Jon Ossoff and Reverend Raphael Warnock have made themselves available to talk to young people about issues like climate change, LGBTQ rights, whereas the Republican senators have made it harder to get in contact with them.
Cindy: Emily, this phone call is certainly big news today. What are your peers saying about it so far?
Emily: I think a lot of young people, unfortunately, are not surprised at the revelation that Donald Trump is trying to search for these votes. However, I also think it plays into the whole idea of why young people are so distrustful of this system. This phone call really showed that, that we really have to start holding these people accountable for the actions that they take.
I think a lot of young people are not surprised. We're all very angry, of course, because the hard work that we're doing seems to be taken for granted or seems to get tossed aside by those in power.
Cindy: Emily, let's talk about that hard work. Tomorrow is a huge day in Georgia. What are your plans? What is the youth turnout going to look like?
Emily: We're going to be phone banking all day. We're going to be calling Georgia voters actually today and tomorrow for Get Out To Vote, sending texts to voters about obviously election day. Today, we're sending them texts about the voting rights reform and trying to pass a new Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Honestly, just turning out as many young people as we can, getting young people to get involved with socially distance lit drops, and canvassing efforts that are happening across the state, and for out of state students to get involved in any way that they possibly can to help us turn out the youth vote tomorrow because it's super important.
That if people haven't gone out to vote either absentee or early that they show up tomorrow at the polls.
Cindy: Emily, real quick. We've got about 30 seconds left. What has been the participation from youth outside the state?
Emily: It has been fairly large. About 40% of our student membership is outside the state. We greatly appreciate everybody who's helping call into Georgia. Everybody's making a difference. All of us in Georgia greatly appreciate all the help that all of our out of state people are giving us.
Cindy: Emily, thank you so much. Emily Zanieski is co-leader of Students for Ossoff and Warnock. Thanks again.
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