With Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp certifying the election last week, the biggest upset of the 2020 Presidential election was set in place with President-elect Joe Biden’s historic flip of the once reliably red Georgia to blue.
What’s more, both the Georgia Senate races will go into a runoff election in early January with all eyes watching this highly anticipated contest that will determine control of the Senate. In an otherwise poor performance for Democrats in House races, Georgia also saw one the few Democratic flips in the once solid red Georgia’s 7th Congressional District.
After President Trump won Georgia handily by 5 points with over 230,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016, this year, after a highly anticipated recount, Georgia has certified its election results with Biden securing 12,670 more votes than Trump with a razor-thin margin of 0.25 points. This has made Biden the first Democratic nominee to win Georgia since 1992, which has shattered a red GOP stronghold into a hotly contested swing state.
Signals of Georgia’s battleground candidacy were received in 2016 where despite Hillary Clinton’s decisive loss, she performed startlingly well in the suburbs north of Atlanta. In fact, in Gwinnett County, located northeast of Atlanta, the political trend of the leftward suburban shift was clearly demonstrated where in 2012 it was easily won by Mitt Romney, but just four years later was won by Hillary Clinton with a margin of more than 18,600 votes, and now Biden winning decisively by 18 points with over 75,000 more votes than Trump.
Key drivers of the Atlanta suburban leftward shift are the overall decrease of eligible white voters statewide and the rapid diversification of suburban counties. In a Pew Research study, the share of eligible white Georgian voters statewide fell by 10-percent between 2000 and 2018, with half of that deficit being claimed by a 5-percent increase in Black Georgian eligible voters.
More so, these gains in Black voters have not been concentrated in just the urban areas of Atlanta, but have disseminated out into the suburbs. Seven of the 10 counties with the fastest growing Black voter population in the United States are surrounding Atlanta, including Gwinnett County, with all having an over 4-percent increase in Black voters. Overall, this region has seen a 14-percent rise in the Black voting-age population in the past decade compared to a 3-percent rise in the white vote.
This rapid increase in Black voters is in part credited to a Southern trend coined as a “reversal of the Great Migration,” where Black residents across the country are transplanting to Georgia and other Southern states. Atlanta continues to emerge as a strong job market attracting surges of transplants moving to Georgia, particularly attracting many Black transplants from non-Southern states.
This “Great Reverse Migration” has Black individuals across the United States seeking a warmer climate, more affordable costs of living and reconnection with their roots as the descendants of Black people who fled the South to escape the surge of racial violence during the Reconstruction era.
The power of these dramatic demographic shifts has made Democrats competitive in Georgia due to the loyalty and vigorous grassroots organizing of the Black vote to turnout for Democrats. The Black community, especially Black women, are an incredibly important base for any Democrat, especially as now shown in Georgia’s 2020 election results.
According to CNN exit polls, Biden won 88 percent of the overall Black Georgian vote, and within the Atlanta suburbs, Biden maintained that same degree of overwhelming support with Black suburban voters, helping him carry the Atlanta suburbs by 7 points. In particular, Black women drove his win, supporting Biden by a nearly unanimous 92 percent.
Alongside the overwhelming support for Biden by Black Georgians, the immense levels of grassroots organizing by Black women to boost Black turnout assisted Biden’s road to victory. Voter turnout in Georgia surged to a total of almost five million votes, with an estimated 1.2 million coming from Black voters compared to the four million total Georgian votes in 2016.
Former Georgia Gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams and her organization Fair Fight registered more than 800,000 predominantly Black voters, while at the same time, challenging the state’s suppressive laws that purged votes and created long lines at the polls in Black neighborhoods. In addition, LaTosha Brown, co-founder of the grassroots Black Votes Matter Fund, reached out to 500,000 voters with more than two million texts.
Nsé Ufot, founder of the grassroots New Georgia Project, confirms her organization registered 500,000 Georgia voters in the past six years. On top of all the voters registered by direct grassroots organizing, Georgia also instituted automatic voter registration with the issuing of driver’s licenses in 2018, that combined with the grassroots advocacy work, resulted in a reduction of unregistered Georgian voters from 22 percent in 2016 to only 2 percent in 2020.
The 2020 election in Georgia has clearly demonstrated the power of Black voters and the critical importance of Black women in grassroots organizing, which made President-elect Biden’s victory in Georgia possible. Biden could not have won Georgia without the loyalty and high turnout of Black voters, and especially Black women voters. In future contests - especially the Senate runoff election in January - Democrats need to laser-focus on the mobilization of the historic loyalty of Black voters, partnered with grassroots efforts centered around systemic issues afflicting Black communities.
Black votes mattered for Joe Biden in this election, clearly demonstrating that Black votes always have and always will matter for a continuation of Democratic victories in Georgia.