(CN) — President-elect Joe Biden’s ultimate win in the typically deep-red Georgia within tens of thousands of votes, resulting in a hand recount of the ballots before the Peach State’s Secretary of State certified the results, was hard to miss.
It was the result of efforts to organize minority voting populations and years of population growth in the South and yet, the work of groups seeking to engage southern voters is still not done. The two runoff races to determine Georgia’s senators will decide which party controls the Senate.
The result of the newly minted battleground-state status is often attributed to one person: Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party, voting rights activist and one time gubernatorial candidate.
Three days after the election, while the votes were still being counted though Biden had amassed more votes than President Donald Trump, Abrams took to Twitter to thank the voters, volunteers, organizations and grassroots activists for their “efforts over the years to create this new Georgia” while describing the importance of the runoff Senate races.
But the shift of Georgia going blue is also a story of demographic change.
The Atlanta Metro Chamber says the city is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the United States. Data on its website says the area has added about 734,000 people from 2010 to 2019 to the counties surrounding the state’s capital.
Professor Charles Bullock, who teaches political science at the University of Georgia, said this trend is not limited only to Georgia. In Texas, and up and down the coastal South from Virginia to Florida, people have been relocating to the South who are typically more liberal than the conservative long-time residents.
Gwinnett County, for instance, which sits to the east of Atlanta, is the most diverse county in Georgia, perhaps one of the most diverse counties in the nation, Bullock said.
The demographic trend towards this moment, when Georgia would be competitive, has been developing for years. And part of the factors this year has also been the voting patterns of white, well-educated women in suburban Atlanta, Bullock said.
The last time Georgia went Democratic during a presidential race, the 1992 race between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, was due in part to what ultimately propelled Clinton to the White House: the presence of third-party candidate Ross Perot who netted about 19% of the votes that election.
Republicans won the state Legislature in the early 2000s, a moment Bullock described as the high-water mark of the Republican Party in Georgia fueled partially by redistricting.
The "House switches in 2004 after a court case requires the redrawing of the Legislature,” Bullock said. “The Democrats had drawn them very aggressively and they performed, but the courts threw it out because what the Democrats had done is underpopulated south Georgia and Atlanta, where Democrats did well and overpopulated north Georgia and the suburban areas.”
In the years following though, Georgia Republicans have been winning state-wide races by thinner and thinner margins.
The flip happened, Bullock said, because Georgia makes registering to vote as simple as checking a box on its driver’s license forms. Combine that with a high-interest race like a presidential election, Bullock said, and you get the results of the tight presidential race in Georgia.
Of course, over the weeks leading up to November, groups seeking to increase voter engagement have been sending mailers.
Union 2020, a project linked to the progressive political consulting firm Atlas Project, sent a mailer, for instance, informing voters on the labor stances of Republican Senator David Perdue and his challenger Democrat Jon Ossoff. Americans for Prosperity Action sent several pro-Perdue mailers reminding voters the fate of the Supreme Court sits in the balance in Georgia’s Senate races.