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2022 Midterms

We Hit the Polls to Talk to Black Voters. Here’s What They Had to Say.

From southeast Atlanta to Washington Park, residents voiced their opinions about high stakes races and top concerns ahead of November.

Black Atlanta voters shared their thoughts about the issues most important to them during the June 21 runoff election. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

It’s runoff election day here in Georgia, and despite the record temperatures expected to take over this week, Black voters throughout metro Atlanta showed up to cast their ballots for a second time in 28 days.

Record-high early voting turnout during this midterm cycle helped bring out 795,000 voters statewide during the May 24 primary, a 149% increase from the previous record set in the 2020 presidential election. And with high-stake races like the Democratic runoff for secretary of state, local commission seats, and others still up for grabs, Atlanta residents still have concerns and opinions ahead of November.

We hit the ground to talk to local voters at the polls about what matters to them. We know that Atlanta has the power to influence national politics. What we learned from voters is that their reasons for civic engagement are just as diverse as the city itself. 

Here’s what Black Atlanta told us.

Carmen Anderson, 49, administrative worker, southeast Atlanta

“My biggest concern in this election is actually citizens having easy access to vote. Here, at this precinct, there were issues with the machines and the cards we used, which is causing a wait. I think things like this will discourage voters from even attempting to vote. I also know a ton of people whose voting locations changed, and it wasn’t as publicized as I believe it needs to be so people are aware of where they need to go on voting day.”

“My grandmother, who lives in a high rise and depends on voter organization transportation to get to the polls, is one of the people whose voting location was changed, and she wasn’t even aware. I think we need that information to be pushed more than anything” 

Monique Nunnally, educator, southeast Atlanta

“I think there has not been a lot done to incentivize people to actually come out and vote, which is why we are seeing such low turnout for the runoff election, despite candidates for major races being determined, like the lieutenant governor race and secretary of state race. There are also obstacles like voters not knowing their precincts because it was changed. … It takes a civic-duty-oriented individual to make sure that they are practicing their rights at every level and every election, even when it isn’t always convenient.”

Mary Wilkins, 76, south Atlanta; Nicole Jones, 55, educator, southeast Atlanta (mother and daughter)

Wilkins: 

“They are making it so hard for Black people to vote again with all these new laws meant to hold us down like the days of Jim Crow. I lived and experienced those times, and it’s like we are reliving it all over again in the same manner with a different face.”

Jones:

“Both of us are here to support our Black Democratic candidates this midterm. I also wanted to make sure my mom had access to vote by bringing her to the poll myself. Even though she is not the topic of the day, our candidate is Stacey Abrams because she represents what Black Georgia needs to get back to normal after these last few years.” 

Darren James, 30, construction worker, southeast Atlanta 

“They told me I’m supposed to vote across the street at the recreation center now, but I have voted here all my life. Luckily, I have the time to get over there. I think people really need to know where their voting location is because I can guarantee you, I won’t be the only one showing up here and being turned away because I didn’t know my poll changed.”

Lily Johnson, 72, retired health care worker, southeast Atlanta

“Oh how times have changed. I’ve been voting in this neighborhood for decades, and it never stops amazing me how much more important it is for Black people to vote every time. My biggest concern this midterm election is voting for candidates who will help us revitalize our economy in a way that everyone can live comfortably. With everything so high, I hope people see the importance of making sure they have a say in who determines our future”

Sandra Tooms, 51, nurse practitioner, Washington Park

“I’m supporting all candidates that are actively having conversations about gun control. I have school aged kids and with the latest mass shootings, I want to know that we have public officials who will regulate crimes created by gun violence when it comes time to vote in November.”

Demarcus Byrd, 48,  entrepreneur/ small-business owner, Washington Park

“One of my biggest concerns is people actually knowing their candidates this year. We haven’t seen as much about Democratic candidates in the [news] media cycle as we have with [Gov. Brian] Kemp or Trump-supported Republican candidates like [David] Perdue and [Herschel] Walker. Black voters need to know who is the best candidate with the best interest in them from mediums that they can easily access.” 

Sydnee Brown, 28, food service worker, Washington Park

“Voting has always been a big thing for me, and I know it’s a major thing for other Black voters. I’m not worried about us showing up this November. I’m more concerned about if they will give us access to easy voting like they do for white neighborhoods on the northside.”

Darnell Wise, 35, social worker, Washington Park

“I think this runoff is important for ensuring Black candidates have a seat at the table come November. We left our economy, our democracy and our rights in the hands of the GOP for the last four years. See how that turned out? It’s time for us to make sure we elect officials who have our back and by our backs, I mean the Black voters.”

Doreen Lacy, 68, retired, Washington Park

“Medicaid is my reason for voting this election season. With rising living costs, as I get older, I want to make sure myself and other elderly people have access to affordable health care. If something happens to me, I don’t want my family to be placed in a bind because I don’t have insurance to cover medical costs.”