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Georgia Sees Surge In Black Voter Turnout

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The state of Georgia hasn't backed a Democrat for president in 28 years, but Joe Biden thinks he has a shot, as evidenced by the fact that he'll spend some of the precious remaining hours of the campaign in the state. He visits both Atlanta and Warm Springs today. And one reason he has hope - early voting has been enormous, especially among the state's Black residents, who've been loyal Democratic Party voters over the last few decades. Maya King has been looking into this for Politico. She joins us now.

Welcome to the program.

MAYA KING: Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: Let's start with some context. Overall, how big is early voting in Georgia, and who is turning out when you look at the demographics?

KING: The data from the secretary of state's office shows us that more than 3 million voters have already cast a ballot early, which is about a over 100% increase from that number in 2016. Forty-nine percent of the early vote population that we've seen right now are voters of color and also young voters.

CORNISH: With Black voters, who are we talking about? Are you talking about people on the younger end of the spectrum, older end? What are you seeing?

KING: Honestly, we're talking about voters across the spectrum. There is a significant number of younger Black first-time voters that are waiting in line. But alongside them, of course, are their parents and even their grandparents, who really understand the stakes of this election and see their vote as a survival vote.

CORNISH: The lede of your story is that almost every Black Georgia voter has a story from 2018. Talk about how 2018 has fueled what we're seeing now.

KING: So we know in 2018, when Stacey Abrams launched her gubernatorial bid, she registered a record number of voters for that time - more than 200,000. And it really geared up excitement and engagement among Democrats in the state who were relatively confident that she would be successful.

As the election got closer, a number of voters found that they were mistakenly removed from the rolls, which set them up for a very confusing process of filling out provisional ballots that might not have been counted. At the end of that election, Brian Kemp, who was elected, was also the state's secretary of state, which called into question just how fair this election really was in the way that it was administered. Stacey Abrams lost the race by fewer than 60,000 votes, which is nearly on track with the number of votes that were removed from the rolls.

And so a number of Georgia voters who were in line at the polls - and especially those who were in line to vote for the first time - have this very distinct memory of seeing that really small margin of votes that Abrams lost by and said, I don't want to see this happen another time, and I definitely don't want to see this happen in an election with Donald Trump and Joe Biden. And it's something that I heard repeatedly on the ground, almost as if Stacey Abrams was a warning for them in making sure that their vote was counted and that it was done so fairly.

CORNISH: It's looking like the Black vote in particular is on track to eclipse the record it set back in 2008 in Georgia. Can you talk about the base of support for President Trump in the state and what it's looking like for Republicans in terms of their turnout? I know there's also an indication that there could be a surge there - right? - especially when you look at absentee ballots.

KING: Yes. Trump's base is really right on track with the base of voters that he has appealed to from the beginning. In certain rural areas of Georgia, there are folks who are going to vote to reelect President Trump, regardless of what he says, though I think one telling detail Democrats have also pointed to to say that maybe even that support is soft is President Trump traveling to Georgia two weeks ago to Macon, which is a city that would normally have gone to Trump relatively easily.

Still, Republicans are pretty confident that Georgia will remain a red state after November. A few lawmakers that I spoke to said you see the enthusiasm and the engagement among voters who are voting early. But one thing that they're quick to point out to me is that their voters are also voting early. So you have enthusiasm really on both sides.

CORNISH: Maya King is a reporter for Politico.

Thank you for sharing your story with us.

KING: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.