Identity

How to Actually Help the Georgia Senate Runoff Elections

Where to put your time, money, and energy between now and January 5, according to organizers on the ground.
Katie Way
Brooklyn, United States
November 13, 2020, 7:30pm
An illustration of a spotlight on a peach, representative of the nation's attention on Georgia's upcoming elections
Collage by Cathryn Virginia | Images from Getty

You voted; you pushed your “not really into politics”-ass friends to the polls; you phone banked; you donated; you boosted activists on the ground; you even opened the occasional Nancy Pelosi email—and now, the election is over! Except where it isn’t: Georgia, where two Senate seats will be decided in runoff elections on January 5 thanks to a special state rule that says a candidate must earn more than 50 percent of votes before they get elected. 

These seats will determine whether the Republican party maintains control of the Senate (so far, it has 50 seats and Democrats have 48), which will have a direct impact on the success of the Biden administration. That means these two races are kiiiind of a big deal. Activists working to engage Georgians, combat voter suppression, register young voters, and increase turnout in the Peach State are asking for all hands on deck to help as many people vote in January as possible. 

According to the organizers VICE spoke with, these next few months of work will require more than just an army of phone bankers and monthly “set it and forget it” donations. (Although those are great, too!) Here are all the other ways to plug in and keep fighting. 

Give resources to groups supporting the community in the long-run.

There are so many organizations doing so many different types of work to boost voter turnout on the ground in Georgia, so it’s worth taking some time to research exactly where you want to spend your energy. (Check out this spreadsheet, which puts the spotlight on BIPOC-led efforts, like S.)

Even just the small slice of groups whose members VICE spoke with all have divergent missions, with their own unique routes toward accomplishing them: SONG Atlanta works to expand voter access in Fulton County Jail; the Black Male Voter Project targets non-voters who sat out both of Barack Obama’s elections; the Georgia 55 Project holds registration drives at MARTA stations, food banks, and popular takeout spots; and the People’s Uprising gets out the youth vote with Lil Baby concerts. And of course there’s Stacey Abrams’ org, Fair Fight, which has been getting well-deserved attention for supporting voter protection work and mobilizing voters statewide. Basically, there are a lot of great options, so finding an org whose goals you gel with is definitely worthwhile. 

If you're considering orgs other than the ones above or in the linked spreadsheet, it's important to do your homework to make sure the organization you want to support is doing the kind of work Georgians need even when it’s not an election year, so you don’t waste your time—or, more importantly, theirs. Look for orgs with boots on the ground, where members are interacting directly with and are a part of the community, versus bigger groups (cough, cough, Lincoln Project) parachuting in.

“During the election cycle, we often see folks rushing to support key races, but failing to support on-the-ground organizing efforts and no actual investment in our long-term organizing fights around policy and culture,” Jade Brooks, organizing lead for SONG, told VICE. “Before jumping to support, folks outside of Georgia should consider the current organizing landscape, and if they are contributing to people-driven work long-term.”

Mondale Robinson, founder of the Black Male Voter Project, echoed the advice to support grassroots organizations, especially those using less conventional tactics. “If it looks like traditional campaigning, if it sounds like traditional campaigning, it's probably responsible for traditional results. Traditional results did not deliver us Georgia,” Robinson said. 

A little of the aforementioned research can also help you determine whether organizations are soliciting straight up cash donations, or looking for material help in other ways, like this PPE Amazon Wishlist from the New Georgia Project aimed at equipping volunteers with the necessary protective gear. 

Know that likes and retweets are actually helpful.

Yes, you read that right: Grassroots organizers in Georgia need all the online love they can get, especially from people looking to help out from afar. I am hereby granting you all permission to Post. 

“Social media played such a strong role in this past election,” Julius Thomas, chairman of the People’s Uprising, told VICE. “It helped keep the energy of early voting and the energy of people getting registered to vote. When Georgia’s trending, that energizes young people and people of color. It helps us stay engaged because it’s constantly on their mind.” 

Following, retweeting, and sharing information to help drum up enthusiasm for the work these orgs are doing doesn’t take a ton of effort on the part of any individual user, but it makes a big difference. 

“People are not aware of the power of social media and its direct correlation to fundraising,” the four co-founders of the Georgia 55 Project told VICE in an email. “[But] we see our donation accounts get a bounce when a post gets traction. So, don’t downplay that share; spreading the word is how we make our money to support voters.” 

Reach out to the people you know personally in the state.

If you know anyone in Georgia, especially someone who you don’t think is an active voter, reach out and try to call them in. “Contact your relatives in Georgia, your friends in Georgia, and just say, ‘Hey, make sure you get out there and vote,’” Thomas said. “Keep that accountability in your circle.” 

Georgia 55’s co-founders also suggested reaching out to people you may feel more tenuously connected to, just in case. “People tend to downplay their personal connections,” they wrote. “One woman here in Atlanta had a friend in Portland, Oregon, who was part of a food truck coalition. Because that woman in Atlanta reached out to that one friend, the Portland food truck vendors contacted us to [help] support food truck vendors here in Georgia to provide food to voters. We all know someone.” 

Sign up for organizations’ newsletters or communication channels to catch volunteer opportunities.

Hate talking on the phone? Strapped for cash? That doesn’t mean you can’t be helpful. Robinson stressed how many different skills a successful organizing project requires. 

“There's so many things that volunteers or voters bring to the table, and they don't think are applicable skills, because they're not political skills,” he said. “If you have social media skills, organizations like mine need your help. If you have skill with office management, if you are an accountant, if you are familiar with the filing information as it pertains to FEC regulations… most skills that voters have are relatable in some sort of way to a campaign.”

If you’re not sure where you fit in, try plugging into an organization’s Slack channel or signing up for their emails to keep an eye on when they’re soliciting volunteers—eventually, you’re bound to fit the bill. 

Listen to organizers.

The question of whether canvassing (physically knocking on doors in order to talk to potential voters), especially by out-of-state volunteers, will be a good strategy in Georgia has loomed large on social media since the runoff elections were announced. Not all of the groups VICE spoke with conduct canvassing of their own, but they all agreed that COVID has changed the way that canvassing has to happen, and advised people thinking about making the trek down south to take that into account.

“In this time and age, we prefer the digital and the outreach support, whether that’s through monetary donations or through spreading the word with phone banking, or joining us on Instagram,” Thomas said.

“An influx of outside manpower can bog down an organization,” Georgia 55’s co-founders wrote. “The desire to come to Georgia and help certainly comes from a good place. We have a legacy of grassroots organizing, are incredibly good at it, and have been pounding the pavement for years.”

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