|On Wednesday, December 30th, Jon Ossoff held a campaign rally in Marietta, and he touted his plans to support DACA, funding for HBCUs, and show solidarity with the Latin American community, which is the fastest-growing demographic in Cobb County. After the rally, he spent some time with The Atlanta Voice to exclusively explain his novel community organizer program.
In essence, the Ossoff campaign has hired 2,000 predominantly Black Georgians to mobilize their communities to turn out the vote. Ossoff believes if Black Georgians turn out on Jan. 5th, 2021, the trajectory of the United States will forever change.
The mission for the mobilizers is to use their networks and contacts to expand the number of voters, specifically among young, Black Georgians. According to their plan, the organizers must talk to their networks about the importance of voting and explain how Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are going to fight for them in the U.S. Senate in a real and relevant manner. For example, Jon’s push for a $15 minimum wage, a New Civil Rights Act, a New Voting Rights Act, affordable health care, COVID relief, and other policies that they know are important to their circles and families.
“Young Black Georgians hold the country’s future in their hands, young Black Georgians will determine control of the United States Senate, and my campaign has made totally unprecedented investment in hiring young people, predominantly young black people as community mobilizers to organize their peer groups,” Ossoff explained. “Their neighborhoods, their communities inspire participation in this election. Too often, campaigns just throw all their money at television ads and don’t invest in the local community and empower local people in the community to participate and to make a difference.”
For added context, 76,000 new voters registered to vote between Oct. 5, the deadline to register to vote in the November general election, and Dec. 7, the deadline for the runoffs. 56% of them (42,560 people) under 35 years old. Some are new Georgia residents; others just turned 18. None has a voting record in the state. The number of new voters was revealed in an updated voter registration list according to Georgia’s Secretary of State’s Office. These voters are eligible to participate in the Jan. 5 runoffs that will decide control of the Senate.
Ossoff’s community mobilizer program believes their 2,000 participants have added 60,000 eligible but sporadic Georgia voters to their campaign. According to their data, only 26% percent of those 60,000 people have already voted.
“And there’s never been a program like this, to my knowledge, in any national or Senate campaign in the country to build a team of 1000s of local young people who are organizing their friends and families and communities to get out to the polls, and the experience that these community mobilizers are gaining working on the front lines of this truly historic senate campaign supports their professional development and their career aspirations, empower young people to make a real difference in these crucial Senate races,” Ossoff said.
The number of Black registered voters in Georgia increased by about 130,000 between Oct. 11, 2016, and Oct. 5, 2020, the largest increase among all major racial and ethnic groups, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of Georgia Secretary of State’s Office data. As Georgia’s eligible voter population grew by 1.9 million, nearly half of this increase, 920,000, attributed to growth in the state’s Black voting population, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new census data.
“The reason I joined was mainly that, I know how Obama was elected,” said Etienne Batiste, a mobilizer for the Ossoff campaign. “We had such a huge black turnout but then right after it, we didn’t turn out the same way as we should have for the same seats. I thought this was such a big deal because I’ve never seen Georgia turn blue. I think it was blue when I was a child, but I’ve never, you know, as an adult. I never could even really think of Georgia being blue. So when that happened I was reinvigorated, and I was like ‘we actually can’t do this,’ so I thought ‘I want to go full steam and get involved because there’s a chance now.’”
The mobilizers use an app that syncs their cell phone contacts and cross-checks them to the master voter file and determines which voters fall in the categories of personal friends, family members, and colleagues.
“I feel like, just trying to get those things that connect to them for their age, and their age group, but for the older generations as well because they can encourage, you know, their kids, so they can encourage them. ‘Hey, this is why you should go say this is who will fight for us,’” explained mobilizer Aisha Jennings.
This effort is an extension of the continual build upon the foundation Stacey Abrams laid in 2018, reaching out to voters residing on the margins that aren’t necessarily amplified in political discourse.
“First and foremost, it is a part of history as the change I seek,” says mobilizer Tramaine Ashford. He went onto say the training he received in the program will get young people in the mindset that Georgia can stay blue after the Senate runoff elections.
“So, the people that mainly around me care most about student debt relief, and then police reform,” said Batiste. “They can see firsthand what’s going on with the Black Lives Matter movement and the counter-movements that have been going against them. They see now, it’s affecting them more personally. So, it’s just up to us now to have these conversations and actually get them the polls.”