South Rising: African-American Vote Surges in Georgia, Eclipsing 2010 Numbers
Georgia, the same state that brought the world far-right icons like Newt Gingrich and Ralph Reed, has developed a reputation for being a solid “Red State.” But on the heels of polling showing that the state may very well elect both a Democratic Senator and Governor, new figures released by an analysis of early voting by the nonprofit Better Georgia shows that the state may be radically shifting its politics, thanks to a huge surge of African American votes.
To begin with, let's look at the early voter demographics through Tuesday of this week. Better Georgia compiled this graphic showing that 31.2% of early voters were African American, and 54.9% were women:
To put these numbers into context, data provided to us by Better Georgia shows that in 2010, the white share of the early vote electorate was 63% – meaning it has actually gone down in 2014, meanwhile, the black share in 2010 was 29%; in raw numbers, 215,683 black voters early voted in 2010, in 2014, with several days of early voting yet to come, 206,670 black voters had already voted by this past Tuesday.
What these numbers demonstrate is that the share of the votes given by the state's more conservative white population are declining, while the share of votes given by the state's largely progressive black population are increasing – so much so, in fact, that if current numbers keep pace, the percentage of black voters will actually be higher than it was in the presidential election in 2012, where 29.89% of voters were African American.
There is one word of caution in the early voting data, however. It shows that the latino vote continues to be fairly marginal, with only 3,624 votes cast so far this year (and 6,149 cast in 2010); that makes up about one percent of early votes, in a state where about nine percent of residents are latino. Although there are numerous barriers to these individuals voting, including the fact that many are not citizens and voter registration among those who are continues to be low, it perhaps shows that both parties are not doing enough to engage these voters and that actions like Obama's failure to move on executive reforms may be depressing the vote.
Still, the early voting totals seem to be paving a path to greater minority participation in the Georgia political system and gives Democrats a real chance at winning statewide elections next week.
“It's clear that Georgia's 2014 election will not be the same as 2010. We're not just seeing more voters, we’re seeing improved diversity across the state,” says Bryan Long, Executive Director of Better Georgia. “If it holds through election day, we expect the change in the electorate will lead to a change in results on election night. Progressive voters in Georgia are turning out in record numbers because we have candidates who have engaged on issues like education and jobs.”