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Biden Pulls Ahead in Georgia: Blue Shift Follows Years of Community Organizing to Expand Electorate

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We go to Atlanta for an update, after Joe Biden pulled ahead of Donald Trump for the first time in Georgia. The 2020 presidential election could hinge on this extraordinarily tight race. Many credit the state’s blue shift to community organizers on the ground, including Stacey Abrams, who lost a hotly contested race for governor of Georgia in 2018 amid claims of widespread voter suppression and has since led a massive effort to get out the vote through her organizations Fair Fight and Fair Count. Both Senate races in Georgia also appear to be headed to runoff elections, and the state could determine if the GOP holds onto its Senate majority. “There has been a wide investment that has been deeply driven by community to expand the electorate,” says Anoa Changa, a freelance journalist based in Atlanta who focuses on electoral justice and voting rights.

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we go to Georgia, where Joe Biden has pulled ahead of Donald Trump for the first time in an extraordinarily tight race for Georgia’s 16 electoral votes. With more than 98% reporting, Biden leads by more than 900 votes. Election officials estimate between 5,000 to 10,000 votes remain to be counted. On Thursday, Georgia’s voting system implementation manager, Gabriel Sterling, said a presidential recount is, quote, “more than likely.” He responded to a reporter’s question about election fairness and allegations of a, quote, “rigged system.”

GABRIEL STERLING: Well, I think if anybody’s going to try to rig a system, they might have seen something a little bit less close than this. That’s one. Two, we have, in this process, 159 dedicated elections directors and their staff who are working to get this right. They are working diligently every single day. We have the — we know how many requests came in for absentee ballots. We know how many ballots were received. So, that is an outward bound, so nobody could suddenly show up with 100,000 extra ballots somewhere. In this state, in particular, we take security very seriously. … We’re going to have a recount for president, more than likely. And people will see those outcomes stay essentially the same.

AMY GOODMAN: Many are crediting Georgia’s blue shift to community organizers on the ground, including Stacey Abrams, who lost a hotly contested race for governor of Georgia in 2018 and claims of widespread voter suppression. She has since been getting out the vote in Georgia with her organization, Fair Fight.

Well, for more, we go to Atlanta, where we’re joined by Anoa Changa. She’s a freelance journalist based in Atlanta covering electoral justice and voting rights.

Georgia is turning everything on its head, Anoa. You have Trump alleging fraud, saying where he was ahead and now behind is all Democrat-run states. Georgia is run by a Republican governor, Republican secretary of state. There’s a whole Republican infrastructure there. And it’s now flipped blue. You also have the two Senate races that could well go to a runoff, and they could determine the balance of the Senate. Talk about the significance of what’s happening in Georgia right now, Anoa.

ANOA CHANGA: Amy, thank you so much for making some time for us to talk about what’s happening in Georgia and the ridiculous claims coming from the current president of the United States about fraud, which have been debunked time and time again. And as you just astutely pointed out, Brian Kemp and Brad Raffensperger are actually Republicans and have been in control of the state of Georgia for the last 10 years, with Brian Kemp previously serving also as secretary of state, and notably in 2018 being — overseeing his own election to the governorship, right?

So, what we’re seeing right now is the continuation of work, as you pointed out, with Stacey Abrams and Fair Fight post-2018, but also also organizations like the New Georgia Project, founded in 2013 and 2014 by Stacey Abrams and Nse Ufot, who serves as the current CEO. You also have Black Voters Matter, the Georgia People’s Agenda. You have so many amazing organizations — Asian Americans Advancing Justice. There has been a wide investment that has been deeply driven by community to expand the electorate and also recognizes the coalition of Black, Latinx, AAPI and other voters, progressive voters, young voters, is what was going to shift Georgia to a state that actually respected all people, regardless of their citizenship status, regardless of their income, etc., and actually bring about opportunity to change. We are still a state that has not had Medicaid expansion, among other things. And so, what we’re seeing right now is a culmination of several years, if not more, of the work of many Georgians to reset the state back from where it has been under the control of centrist, moderate, white Dem leadership that lost the state back in 2010.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Anoa, while the focus has been on the presidential race and also those Senate races, the U.S. Senate races, there have been quite a few changes in down-ballot races. Could you talk about what’s happening in some of the sheriff races, as well?

ANOA CHANGA: Yeah. I mean, right here in the metro Atlanta area, we just saw two candidates for sheriff in Cobb County and Gwinnett County, again, a part of the long-term work that’s being pushed, that flipped two sheriffs that do not support participation in 287(g). So, you have new sheriffs coming in who are willing to withdraw support from the 287(g) program. If folks are not familiar with that, that is a cooperation agreement between law enforcement and ICE. And that has been a major victory, among some other issues around detention and racial profiling that Latinx organizers, AAPI, Black organizers, like folks, have been working on around the state.

We also saw Deborah Gonzalez, who is a candidate for DA, go into a runoff. Deborah had to sue the state multiple times for her race to even happen, as it was canceled previously to allow the appointed position to — the appointed person to remain in that position. So, Deborah Gonzalez is now moving forward in Athens County. That’s the Western District DA race.

We also saw Jackie Johnson, the corrupt DA who conspired to keep the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery out of jail — we saw Jackie Johnson lose her race, as well.

So we’re seeing a lot happening. We’ve seen several shifts in folks flipping House district races, as well. I mean, there’s just been a lot happening across state. A couple of county commissioner seats have been picked up. It’s just been a lot. And again, that’s a testament to the grassroots organizing that has been happening, some of it in line with the Democratic Party, and some of it has been — most of it has been outside of traditional party politics, the traditional candidates.

AMY GOODMAN: And these two Senate races, the significance? I mean, if you have both Senate races go to a runoff in January, the whole country — and possibly a call for a recount, if it’s really razor thin between Joe Biden and President Trump — the entire country will be turning to Georgia, to say the least.

ANOA CHANGA: Yeah. I mean, what we have known here in Georgia, what we have seen, because trusting in the work of local organizers and then also just looking at the numbers on the map, in terms of, like, who the new voters are, who were the existing voters that have not been touched — people have been doing organizing work in Southwest Georgia, down in Dodge County, despite hurricanes and other incidents. So folks know that these Senate seats are not just important to Georgia in terms of being able to flip them, but also in terms of the balance of power, in terms of the whole nation and the Senate.

But with that is coming a mandate from Georgians, in terms of making sure that the South, as a whole — because it’s not just about Georgia. It’s about the whole South. We’ve seen amazing victories across the South. And that is attributed to deep organizing that has happened across the region, that tends to be Black-, Indigenous-, POC-led, right? And so, we know that we need a fundamental reimagining of how we engage in politics in this country, as well as how we examine and talk about different states, whether we’re talking about rural voters and the work that rural organizers are doing, or we’re talking about, quote-unquote, “red versus blue” state.

It’s amazing to wake up this morning to the work and to see proof of concept for everyone else to understand what we know to be true here in Georgia. when we look at Mississippi and Mississippi voters overturning a remnant of Jim Crow that had its own version of basically an Electoral College, that basically prevented Black — anyone Black or of color to ever win statewide. We see, in Alamance County, North Carolina, which recently made news for the attack on voters, just elected its first Latino to the state House. We have seen, like, amazing efforts across the board. Florida flipped to — or, Florida supported a $15 minimum wage.

So, the work is there. The investment just needs to happen. And it can’t just be aligned with whether or not people are going to build up or be the backbone of the Democratic Party. It has to be grounded in the people’s interests and what is for the greater good, and really putting democracy back in the center of all of our focus, and not worrying about paying attention to bothsidesism and so-called objectivity.

AMY GOODMAN: Anoa Changa, I want to thank you very much for being with us, freelance journalist based in Atlanta, Georgia, covering electoral justice and voting rights.

And this just in: We have these reports that are coming in from Pennsylvania. Joe Biden has just taken a narrow lead in Pennsylvania by more than 5,000 votes — again, has flipped Pennsylvania by more than 5,000 votes. There are still tens of thousands of votes to be counted.

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