Former United Nations ambassador Andrew Young rode his motorcycle alongside Democratic Senators Raphael Warnock, Martin Luther King III, and a crowd of protesters in a southwest Atlanta neighborhood. The group stopped at an early polling station to vote and formed a line, with some waiting up to an hour to vote.
At 90, Young says he’s selective about public appearances, but felt the “Souls to the Polls” event could have galvanized black voters in Tuesday’s hotly contested US Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker. Historic match between two black men.
Community leaders and political observers say the Black vote has always played a central role in high-stakes races for Democrats, including in 2021, when he beat Warnock Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the second round. According to a CNN poll released last week that hardly showed Warnock.
Warnock’s second-round victory may again hinge on whether black voters turn out in a later race. If Warnock wins, it would give Democrats a clear majority in the Senate — a majority that does not depend on the corrupt vote of Vice President Kamala Harris and allows Majority Leader Chuck Schumer more control of key committees and a certain slowness in dividing up the judiciary. Stress and management battles.
Young said that voting is the “path to prosperity” for the black community. He noted that Atlanta’s public transportation system and economic growth were made possible by the voters.
“We’ve thrived where we started,” Young said.
The march led by Young, King, and Warnock appears to have set the tone for many black voters in Georgia. Early voting rates rose across the state last week as long lines spoke to the greater Atlanta area. As of Sunday, more than 1.85 million ballots have already been cast, with Black voters making up nearly 32% of the turnout, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s office. The early voting period, which was significantly intense from 2021, ended on Friday.
Black participation so far looks promising for Democrats, said Billy Honor, organizational director of the New Georgia Project Action Fund.
“When we get black voter turnout in any electoral state between 31% and 33%, it’s generally good for the Democrats,” Honor said. “If it’s between 27 and 30 percent, that’s generally good for Republicans.”
Honor added, “It affects the election because we know that if you’re a Democratic candidate, the coalition you need to form is a certain number of college-educated white people, a certain number of women in general, and as many young people as you can get.” On it – and black voters. It’s the alliance. (Former President) Barack Obama broke up that alliance in 2008 in a way we hadn’t seen before. »
Young said he believes black voters are more likely to contest a runoff, which has historically had a lower turnout than the general election, when a candidate is popular and close.
Warnock is a beloved figure in Atlanta’s black community, and he served as pastor of the church led by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He was raised in public housing and relied on student loans to attend college.
Young said Warnock’s story was inspiring.
“He’s an interesting character, he’s a great preacher,” Young said. “He speaks from his heart and tells us how he and his family grew up in the Deep South and developed a wonderful life.”
Some Black voters may also vote against Walker, Young said, who has led a string of general voters, has no political experience and has a history of accusations of violence and threats.
A CNN poll last week showed Walker faced many questions about his honesty and suffered a negative preference rating, while nearly half of those who support him say they vote more for Warnock than they support Walker.
Warnock’s views tend to be narrowly positive, with 50% of likely voters having a favorable view and 45% disfavoring, while Georgian voters are more likely (52%) to have a negative view of Walker than to have a favorable view ( 39%).
Walker remains popular as a University of Georgia Heisman Trophy football star. And among the majority of likely voters in a CNN poll who said issues are a bigger factor in their vote than character or integrity, 64% support Walker.
He campaigned on Sunday with, among others, Republican South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, one of only three black senators currently serving in the chamber. Scott tried to link Warnock to President Joe Biden — who, like former President Donald Trump, avoided a catch — and reminded voters in Loganville of the GOP’s losses in the 2021 runoff.
At the event, which began with prayers in Creole, Spanish, and Swahili with Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition, Walker encouraged going to vote more often than he normally would.
“If you don’t have a friend, make friends and vote for yours,” Walker said.
Some Black voters said they were excited to show up last week and vote early in the runoff race.
Travie Leslie said she felt it was her “civic duty” to vote after all the work Atlanta civil rights leaders had done to ensure blacks had the right to vote. Leslie doesn’t mind standing in line or voting in multiple elections to ensure a good candidate gets the job.
“I would run 12 if I had to and would encourage others to do the same,” Leslie said Thursday while at the polls at the Metropolitan Library in Atlanta. “Just stay dedicated to this because it really is the best time to be a part of the decision-making process, especially for Georgia.
Martin Luther King III has credited grassroots organizations with registering more Black and Brown voters since 2020, when Biden carried the state, rallying Georgians to run.
King said their work led to long lines of voters in the first and second half races.
King said he believed Warnock appealed to black voters in a way Walker did not.
“Rev. Warnock pulls it off really well,” King said. He stayed above the battle and decided what to do. »
He said the black vote would likely make the difference to who wins the runoff.
“Black voters, if we come out in droves, I think on December 6th we (the Democrats) will score a massive victory,” King said.