In the 2020 Presidential election, Democrats won Georgia for the first time since 1992—and one of the numerous factors contributing to that win was the work of Stacey Abrams in registering new voters and combatting existing voter suppression. After narrowly losing the race for governor in 2018, former Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives Abrams turned her attention towards fighting to improve voter access in her state.
In an interview with the New York Times, Abrams talked about coalition-building in the South, removing restrictions to voter access, and her decade-long fight to prove that Georgia could go blue.
On why 2020 was so different from 2016 for Democrats in Georgia:
“Voter suppression was very much instrumental in shaping turnout numbers in 2018, and 2016. In 2018, we did much deeper investment in actual voter turnout, but we still ran into the buzz saw of voter purges, exact match closures, old machines that were inaccurately and disparately deployed, broken machines, and then super high rejection rates, comparatively speaking, of Black and brown voters in the absentee or provisional ballots space.
So what we were able to identify — in the concrete ways in 2018 — we were able then to mitigate heading into 2020.
And so I think you see the combination of increased voter engagement through another 800,000 people being registered and staying on the rolls through November 2018 through this election. But you also had the removal and mitigation of a number of barriers that blocked access to the polls.”
On the most difficult part of her fight to show that Georgia could be a Democratic state:
“The end of the redistricting in 2011. Republicans passed maps that gave them a disproportionate share everywhere. It packed Black communities, it cracked Latino communities. It put the only Latino legislator in a majority white district. And the maps were approved. It was December of 2011, when Republicans were given permission to racially gerrymander in the state of Georgia and that to me was heart wrenching. It meant the only salvation we had coming was to crawl back our way.
There would be no new map. There would be no litigation. We were going to have to do this by finding every voter we could and that was going to take a lot longer than I’d hoped, but not longer than I’d imagined.”
On why Democrats saw such significant gains in Georgia on Election Day 2020:
“We also not only saw the share of the electorate expand, we saw Latino voter turnout increased by 72 percent. A.A.P.I. voters increased by 91 percent, Black voters increased their turnout by 20 percent. White voters increased theirs by 16 percent. So we were able to increase on all of those margins and we were also able to continue to increase the share of white voters. And that combination matters. This is a combination that doesn’t really exist in other states at the level that exists here in Georgia.”
Read the entire interview here.