In his Memorial Day address to the nation, President Biden stated, “Democracy is the soul of America.” Across the county and here in Georgia, political action groups are hard at work to keep young people engaged in this fundamental institution.
The 2020 election cycle certainly ignited a passion for democracy from both sides of the aisle. This was most apparent in the historical voter turnout. These increases in voter participation had a tremendous impact on the outcome of the races, as seen in Georgia, which went to the Democratic presidential nominee for the first time since 1992, though only by a small margin.
The flip in Georgia’s electoral vote was at least in part the result of work by political interest groups, such as Fair Fight and the Andrew Goodman Foundation. These groups aim to encourage voter participation and ensure everyone is able to exercise their right to cast a ballot.
Alexandria Harris, president of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, told Atlanta Civic Circle that while their tactics had to pivot during the most recent races, they were still able to adapt to connect with young voters. The foundation’s purpose is to “make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy,” and was named after civil rights activist Andrew Goodman.
“Our goal was to reach out to disillusioned voters and help them understand the power of their vote,” said Harris. She said that they utilized social media such as TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter to help educate young voters and combat misconceptions and misinformation about voting. Harris also said that they tried to organize around specific issues such as climate change, police brutality and student loans in an attempt to get voters to understand how these issues are affected by elected officials.
To help make information about voting accessible, the foundation opened up an online portal to help teach young voters how to register, and where to go to vote in person. For those who voted by mail, they set up a ballot tracking service and helped them cure rejected ballots.
Charlotte Snoad, who worked for the Biden campaign in Georgia, also focused much of her efforts on trying to get young people to the polls.
“Young people have the lowest voter turnout by age group,” Snoad said, adding, “the way we save our democracy is through voting.”
“I would say the state of our democracy is still very fragile,” she said. One thing that made her apprehensive was the relatively small margin by which Biden beat Trump in Georgia. The final count had Biden 12,670 votes ahead of his rival.
Snoad says that despite her apprehension for the future, she was reassured by the fact that Democrats were able to win in a state that has a history of being gerrymandered.
After celebrating the runoff victory in January, Georgia Democrats are back to work in anticipation of the upcoming midterm elections, which are less than eighteen months away. Fair Fight and the Andrew Goodman Foundation and many others are encouraging Georgia voters to continue to show up at the polls on election day.
“There’s still a fire in the people who work the campaigns,” said Snoad, reflecting on the ongoing conflict over the future of Georgia’s political leanings.
Harris is a testament to that statement, as the Andrew Goodman Foundation is already looking to future elections to keep young people engaged in politics.
While Harris says that she’s been discouraged by the restrictive voting bills that have been passed recently, such as SB-202, it also serves as motivation to continue their work.
“We can’t lose this momentum, even if morale is low,” said Harris.
Right now, she said that the Andrew Goodman Foundation is mainly focusing on bringing voters’ attention to bills like the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, both of which would offer to counteract some of the legislation brought on by bills such as SB-202.
Along with this, the foundation is also trying to mobilize Black voters, who make up 34.6 percent of voters in Georgia, by connecting with historically black colleges and universities to connect with more students. As part of this effort, the foundation has tripled the number of campuses in Georgia that they work with.
“We’re trying to empower young people to create their own campaigns, and to get their peers excited about voting,” said Harris. “Youth voters face more barriers in Georgia than in other states,” she added.
With the midterm elections only eighteen months out, we can expect to see political interest groups gearing up again for what could be another series of tight races.