Former UN Ambassador Andrew Young rode his scooter alongside Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Martin Luther King III and a fervent crowd of marchers on a recent Sunday through a southwest Atlanta neighborhood.
The group stopped at an early polling location to vote, forming a line with some waiting as long as one hour to cast their ballots.
At the age of 90, Young says he is selective about public appearances but felt the “Souls to the Polls” event was one where he could motivate Black voters in Tuesday’s hotly contested US Senate runoff between Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker — a historic matchup between two Black men.
Community leaders and political observers say the Black vote has consistently played a pivotal role in high-stakes races for Democrats, including in 2021, when Warnock defeated then-Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a runoff.
A key demographic for Democrats: Black voters likely to cast a ballot are near unanimous in their support for the Democrat (96% Warnock to 3% Walker), according to a CNN poll released last week that showed Warnock with a narrow lead.
A second runoff victory for Warnock could once again hinge on Black voter turnout in a consequential race. If Warnock wins, it would give Democrats a clean Senate majority — one that doesn’t rely on Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote and allows Majority Leader Chuck Schumer more control of key committees and some slack in potentially divisive judicial and administrative confirmation fights.
Voting, Young said, is the “path to prosperity” for the Black community. He noted that Atlanta’s mass transit system and economic growth have been made possible by voters.
“Where we have voted we have prospered,” Young said.
The rally led by Young, King and Warnock seems to have set the tone for many Black voters in Georgia. Early voting surged across the state last week with long lines reported across the greater Atlanta area.
Early voting numbers look promising: As of Sunday, more than 1.85 million votes had already been cast, with Black voters accounting for nearly 32% of the turnout, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Office. The early voting period, which was significantly condensed from 2021, ended on Friday.
Billy Honor, director of organizing for the New Georgia Project Action Fund, said the Black turnout so far looks promising for Democrats.
“When we get Black voter turnout in any election statewide that’s between 31 and 33%, that’s usually good for Democrats,” Honor said. “If it’s between 27 and 30%, that’s usually good for Republicans.”
Honor added: “This has an impact on elections because we know that if you’re a Democratic candidate, the coalition you have to put together is a certain amount of college-educated White folks, a certain amount of women overall, as many young people as you can get to turn out – and Black voters. That’s the coalition. (Former president) Barack Obama was able to smash that coalition in 2008 in ways we hadn’t seen.”
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