'It's Just Beautiful': What the Georgia Runoff Means to Black Voters

VICE News talked to voters about the Black community’s critical role in defining the state’s political standing.
Georgia voters (1)
(From left) Georgia voters Corinthia Myrick, Paul Montgomery, 

and Brenda Collins.

Corinthia Myrick went into Tuesday’s critical Senate election in Georgia with her heart in her throat. In the past, said the 30-year-old Black teacher, local runoff elections “never turn out well.”

“We’ve just been suppressed for years, but to have Black voter turnout highlighted, to see DeKalb County, where I was born and raised, on national TV because we were able to come together and pull through for the country, it’s been a beautiful thing,” she said. “To not only get a Black reverend in office, but a young, 30-year-old Jewish young man in a predominantly racist state into the Senate, it’s just beautiful.” 

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After years of grassroots organizing that helped undo decades of Black voter suppression in Georgia, Americans now have a glimpse of how impactful the state’s changing voter demographics could be on the national stage. Black people, who make up 32.6 percent of the state’s population and a third of the state’s eligable voters, have turned a historically Republican stronghold into a trump card for the Democrats, first in the November presidential election and now in the extremely consequential Senate runoff: While the margins were thin, Democratic challengers Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock defeated Republican opponents David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler, respectively, to give Democrats control of the Senate for the first time in over a decade.

Both Warnock, a Black pastor in the church where MLK Jr. worshipped, and Ossoff were able to match, and in some counties push more, voters to the polls than they did the first time around in November. About 93 percent of Black voters who turned out for the runoff supported Ossoff and Warnock, according to The Guardian. Ossoff managed to get 92 percent of Black voters, up five points from his original tally in November’s race, the outlet reports. Early exit polls tallied by NBC News reported Warnock also got 92 percent of Georgia’s Black vote. 

VICE News spoke to Myrick and four other Black voters immediately following the election. While they all voted for different reasons, they shared fresh enthusiasm about the Black community’s role in defining the state’s political standing. For all of them, Joe Biden, Warnock and Ossoff’s wins represent a much-needed change for a state they felt never reflected their values. 

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Paul Montgomery has lived in Georgia for all of his 26 years. Currently a Decatur resident, Montgomery said he’s voted in every national election since he’d been an eligible voter. But the last four years under President Trump, combined with the corruption he perceived from his own representatives on Capitol Hill, made him more politically engaged than ever.

“The moment I found out about Loeffler’s insider trading, I was instantly like, ‘That’s disgusting,’” he said, referencing the outgoing senator’s stock market dealings shortly after a congressional COVID-19 briefing last year. “Kelly wasn’t even elected; she was just appointed to the position and has all the charisma of a brown paper bag.”

With new Democratic senators taking office, Montgomery hopes the Senate will finally provide financial relief to struggling working Americans who have been impacted by the ongoing pandemic—like some of his close friends who’ve lost their jobs.


“It's rough out here. It's not as easy as Republicans try and paint it,” he said. “The first step should be the stimulus. Only then can people get their ducks in a row, when there’s less of a financial threat looming over the average American.”

Montgomery said the sudden boost in Black turnout doesn’t surprise him. He’s seen it for himself in the last decade. 

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“These two elections set the tone that Georgia isn’t as country and white as it once was,” he said. “I live on the outskirts of metro Atlanta and I have seen a lot more Black people in this area than white people, and it hasn’t always been like this.”

Continued engagement

But not everyone is as optimistic. Nafisa Rawji, 27, from Atlanta, isn’t convinced that Georgia’s blue wave is here to stay if people don’t continue to be engaged.

“I know people are excited that Georgia turned blue, but there was only a 25,000-vote difference,” she said. “It’s not that blue; it’s bluish. I’m worried that people will get too comfortable.”

She praised the work of Democrat organizers like Stacey Abrams who helped boost Black turnout this election cycle. But she hopes the trend will continue into the future.

Regardless of her skepticism, she said she’s happy to see two new leaders who will reflect the needs of the Black community once they take office. She said Loeffler and Purdue’s indifference to issues like police brutality made it clear they don’t value Black lives like hers.

“I feel like so much of the conversation around these two elections have been about not wanting Republicans. But I do think we have two really good Democratic senators. Ossoff and Warnock are great candidates with great platforms. I hope they’re able to get the recognition for that instead of the focus on Georgia flipping.”

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Devin Jones, a 32-year-old from Atlanta,said Loeffler’s corrupt actions and Perdue’s lack of leadership during the pandemic made this election especially important. 

“Corruption is a no-go”

“It’s kind of absurd that they kind of operate the way they do,” Jones said, specifically referencing Loeffler’s suspect stock market activities before the pandemic. “That kind of corruption is a no go.”

To Jones, back-to-back Democratic victories represents a new day for Black voters in Georgia—one that no longer holds back a significant portion of its residents.

“Georgia’s shift shows that we actually do have a democracy,” he said. “That if enough people participate, we can be heard and we can get the things that we need from our government.”

For Myrick, the main reason this election was so important was the implications it had for future generations of Black voters.

“When we're talking about Generation Z and those who I teach now, I think it's very important that we are intentional about our approach,” she said. “We have to let them know that they have a voice. And if we aren’t practicing what we preach, then our kids are going to follow suit. We can’t have this snowball effect of living in limbo. Our kids shouldn’t have to go through what we're going through because we didn't speak out and take up for them.”

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Mitch, the motivator

Brenda Collins, a 73-year-old federal worker, said this election for her was centered around Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The Decatur resident voted as soon as the polls opened in mid-December. 

“He's the biggest obstructionist that's been in office for the last 12 to 15 years,” she said. “That whole Republican philosophy of obstruct first, and never give thought to the average citizen, has proved that we don’t matter to them.”

She said Black voters turning the tide this election season is exactly the kind of wake-up call the mostly Republican local elected leaders in Georgia need.

“This election shows that there is a base of people now who know how to use their power,” she said. “They might reconsider some of the policies that they usually implement.”

As she approaches her retirement at the end of the month, Collins said the future has never looked brighter.

“As a Black woman, an older Black woman, I see hope,” she continued. “I see hope with the younger generation. I see hope, with the progressive wing of the party. I don’t see myself as a progressive. But I look at the ideas that these young people have, who’d they’d effect. And I can see that these are things that we need to work on. I would love to see, as an older Black woman, the old guard step aside and let them walk with us rather than behind us all the time.”