Georgia, ground zero for the Senate

by Wade Rathke

November 13, 2020

Atlanta   It took five hours and half a tank of gas for me and two organizers for the ACORN Tenants Union in Atlanta to visit more than a dozen apartment complexes in five different counties around metro Atlanta and the perimeter. The day had started in misty fog but ended in clear skies, bright sunlight, and a beautiful fall day. Occasionally, the conversation would ebb, and the low tones of the Georgia public radio station would break the silence. Every show and most comments seemed to be the amazement and excitement of Georgians finding themselves suddenly ground zero it what remains of the 2020 election season.

For Georgians right now, it almost seems like Trump, who? All of the focus is on the two runoff races scheduled for January 5th for their US Senators, that at least has a long odds chance of determining which party might control the US Senate under President-elect Joe Biden. They marveled that there were forty out of town, national reporters at a routine press conference this week by the secretary of state. Well, not totally routine, I guess, because he was fielding demands from the two existing Republican senators for his resignation, and finding himself, as a Republican secretary of state defending the conduct of the election on his watch against both of them and the president.

Commentators believed there might be thirty or forty independent expenditure efforts vying to buy media with their own messages and candidate support on each side over the coming two months. They went back and forth about whether that would help or hurt Senator Perdue more or his challenger Jon Ossoff. I had already heard a radio spot for Ossoff by former president, Barack Obama, saying they were close friends and that he stood for justice. The other race seemed to most of the pundits to be a much longer shot for Rev. Warnock against the semi-incumbent Kelly Loeffler.

Early voting will start in almost exactly one-month and the voter registration deadline is in three weeks. ACORN and the Voter Purge Project in home visits during the summer to determine the accuracy of the Georgia voter list had found a number of pockets in metro Atlanta where there were significant levels of unregistered voters. Riverdale, where we had spent time, is in Clayton County where there are more than 30,000 still unregistered, and was in the news tipping Georgia towards Biden as he took the lead.

We plan to keep away from the roar of the maddening crowd, but will field a team of between ten and fifteen canvassers, supplemented with volunteers, for the remaining eight weeks to home visit, register the unregistered, and then make sure they can navigate the system of early voting and direct voting. We’ll focus on Riverdale, College Park, Rex, East Point, and Lithonia, because these are communities we know from work over the decades and in more recent campaigns with the ACORN Home Savers Campaign and the Voter Purge Project.

Who knows who will win, but, regardless, it is an opportunity to once again increase the participation of low-and-moderate income citizens who can realize the power of their individual vote, now on a national scale, and in doing so continue to build, or perhaps rebuild, some democracy in the voting booth as well as in the street?

Wade Rathke is founder and chief organizer of ACORN and ACORN International. You can find Wade’s recent past posts here Chief Organizer Reports. And you can link to his website here Chief Organizer ACORN/ACORN International.

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