Georgia Just Turned Blue in a Surprising Flip, but Stacey Abrams Saw It Coming Years Ago

Yerin Kim
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 24:  Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams waits to speak at a Democratic canvass kickoff as she campaigns for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at Bruce Trent Park on October 24, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In-person early voting for the general election in the battleground state began on October 17 and continues through October 30.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - OCTOBER 24: Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams waits to speak at a Democratic canvass kickoff as she campaigns for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris at Bruce Trent Park on October 24, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. In-person early voting for the general election in the battleground state began on October 17 and continues through October 30. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Georgia has turned blue in favor of Joe Biden this presidential election, and it's no fluke. Since 1964, Georgia has been a solid red state, consistently voting for the Republican presidential candidate in all but three elections - for former Georgia Senator Jimmy Carter in 1976 and again in 1980, and for Bill Clinton in 1992. Yet in the 2020 election, the state pulled ahead for Biden by the morning of Nov. 6, and by Nov. 13, CNN, as well as other news outlets, projected the president-elect had won Georgia. With a slim margin of just over 14,000 votes as of Friday evening, Georgia has solidified its place as a battleground state.

"Thank you to the grassroots activists, the allied organizations, volunteers and of course, you, all of you voters, for your efforts over the years to create this new Georgia."

While a recount is still in motion, historically, these audits have not changed the final tallies by large numbers. Regardless, the tight margin in itself can largely be credited to former Georgia state Representative Stacey Abrams. Thanks to her hard work in mobilizing voters and combating voter suppression through her organizations, Fair Fight and the New Georgia Project, she has subsequently helped to flip the state. "Thank you to the grassroots activists, the allied organizations, volunteers, and of course, you, all of you voters, for your efforts over the years to create this new Georgia," she said in a video for Fair Fight on Nov. 6.

Abrams first made waves in 2018 when she ran for governor of Georgia but lost the election to Republican Brian Kemp by just about 55,000 votes amid widespread allegations of racially motivated voter suppression. But instead of running for political office again, Abrams channeled her efforts into combating voter suppression, organizing voters, and expanding voting rights for the most disenfranchised people all over the nation through Fair Fight - and she made it her mission to bring change to Georgia and inspire a new wave of voters.

Her tireless activism paid off. In Georgia, Fair Fight reportedly registered 800,000 new voters since 2018 - 49 percent of whom are people of color and 45 percent of whom are new voters under 30. The organization also fought to repeal suppression tactics like the exact match policy, which disqualified eligible voters for minor discrepancies between their registration and official identification.

But galvanizing voters in Georgia and increasing turnout have been priorities for Abrams since long before the 2020 election. She has spent nearly a decade fighting to expand voting access for Black and brown people, who often support Democratic candidates. For her own gubernatorial run in 2018, she tripled Asian American and Latinx voter turnout and rallied twice as many youth voters.

While the political shift in Georgia is of course majorly owed to changing demographics, particularly in urban cities like Atlanta where there's been a massive influx of young, diverse eligible voters, the work of political organizers and activists cannot be ignored. "Georgia is the future of America," Abrams said in a 2016 interview with The Cut. "Economic changes, demographic changes happening around this country - not only with regard to race but in terms of age - all those things find a perfect crucible in Georgia. Georgia is a vision of what America is going to look like in 20 years."

"Georgia has the youngest population of a battleground state. We have the highest percentage of African Americans of a battleground state. And we've proven that both communities will turn out."

As she recognized the potential in Georgia's growing electorate to swing blue, Abrams actively worked to convince Democrats to both take the state seriously as a battleground and keep an eye on voters there. "Georgia has the youngest population of a battleground state," she said on Crooked Media's The Wilderness podcast back in January. "We have the highest percentage of African Americans of a battleground state. And we've proven that both communities will turn out." And in a Politico interview days before the election, Abrams shared that she "met with every major candidate who was running for president" in 2019 to deliver this exact message, noting she said "it would be malpractice to not pay attention." Abrams's projections and Georgia's surprising flip serves as an important reminder that no state is entirely red or blue, and political nuance allows for changes like those we've seen in this state.

Related: Stacey Abrams Is Also a Romance Novelist, as If We Needed Another Reason to Be in Awe of Her

The late John Lewis also pushed Biden toward his first lead in Georgia over Trump, as the renowned civil rights leader and congressman who served in Georgia's fifth congressional district, which includes parts of Clayton County, endorsed the former vice president prior to his passing in July. While it was a close count, this marginal difference in a traditionally red state is a significant turn that will influence races to come, and Abrams is certainly one to thank.

Further proof Abrams and her fellow organizers were right in bringing Georgia into the spotlight: control of the US Senate likely comes down to two races this year, which are both in the Peach State. After Republicans David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler failed to reach over 50 percent of the vote against Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, respectively, both Senate races are headed for runoff elections in early January. As Abrams herself said in regard to the runoffs, "our work here is not done." She continued, "We have seen what's possible when we work hard and when we work together."