It’s been about two years since Buckhead resident Greg Weeks came out to vote for anything or anyone, but during Tuesday’s U.S. Senate runoff race, he felt compelled to cast his ballot for Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Weeks was “frightened” by the prospect of his opponent, Herschel Walker, representing him in Congress. He says a conversation about voting with intention that he saw on the social media app FanBase got him to cast a ballot for the first time since 2020. The video featured FanBase founder and CEO Isaac Hayes III specifically talking about the importance of showing up.
“We need to be more strategic about voting,” Weeks said of his main takeaway. “You always hear about how we actually can impact things if we do it strategically. So that was a confirmation.”
Weeks, 37, is one of more than 607,000 Black Georgians who cast their ballots in the historic runoff race matchup between Warnock and Walker, down from more than 1 million who voted during the general election on Nov. 8, according to demographic data from the secretary of state’s office.
While the number of Black voters decreased in the runoff, their rate of participation rose sharply, from just 26% during the general election to about 32% on Tuesday.
Per the SOS data, the rate of white voter participation, in contrast, declined 5 points, from about 60% during the general election to about 55% in the runoff. A majority of white voters tend to vote Republican, while Black voters usually support Democrats.
The disparity in participation rate shows Black voters were more motivated to vote for Warnock, and that might be driven by grassroots voting efforts, according to Gbemende Johnson, associate professor of political science at the University of Georgia.
The increased Black participation, Johnson said, is partly due to the mobilization efforts of Warnock’s campaign, the Georgia Democratic Party, and voter engagement groups like New Georgia Project Action Fund, Black Voters Matter, the Georgia NAACP, and Faith Works.
“The Democratic base and [its] supporters in Georgia have been working really hard to increase turnout,” Johnson said. “We know all about the work of Stacey Abrams and other Black women organizers who have played a role there, and that continued.”
New Georgia Project CEO Kendra Cotton said her organization’s staffers knocked on more than 840,000 doors during the runoff election cycle.
“We know that Georgians are ready for progressive change, and they made that clear during this election,” Cotton said during a post-election press conference on Wednesday.
Black voter participation in metro Atlanta rose notably from the general election to the runoff, but Johnson said it was also higher in more rural areas of the state.
“They are smaller, but those are going to be some votes that contribute to any Democratic victory that you have. They’re just going to be less concentrated,” Johnson said.
Warnock was the only Democratic candidate to win a statewide office race this year. Cotton said that shows Georgia is still largely a red state, but Tuesday’s runoff election results proves that has the potential to change.
“Black and brown folks live all over this state, and when we can reach them, invest in them and give them a reason, maybe for the first time, to turn out and vote, they are the ones that are going to make those red counties a little bit more pink,” she said.