Georgians went to the polls in record numbers during the May 24 primary ahead of the crucial 2022 midterm elections, despite renewed GOP efforts to suppress the votes of the state’s communities of color. Passed in the wake of the 2020 elections, inspired in large part by former President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, Georgia’s SB 202 (the Election Integrity Act of 2021) is perhaps the most egregious example of Republicans’ nationwide efforts to roll back voting rights through a flurry of restrictive voting laws. Such laws disproportionately impact people in low-income communities and communities of color, and they are being passed at a moment when the power of communities of color to shape election outcomes is rapidly increasing. Case in point: Georgia’s Latinx community has grown by 30% over the past decade and now comprises 10% of the state’s population. In this on-the-ground report for our special series “Defending Democracy in the 2022 Midterm Elections,” TRNN’s Jaisal Noor and Jeffrey Moustache speak with organizers from the Georgia Alliance of Latino Elected Officials (GALEO), an advocacy group that helps Latinx voters unlock their political power, about how they are working to “out-organize voter suppression” by mobilizing and empowering the state’s Latinx community.
Pre-Production/Studio: Jaisal Noor, Jeffrey Moustache
Post-Production: Jaisal Noor, Jeffrey Moustache, Cameron Granadino
This story is part of a series that was made possible with the support of the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Jaisal Noor: Georgians went to the polls in record numbers during the May 24 primary in the crucial 2022 midterm elections. This is despite renewed GOP efforts to suppress the votes of the state’s communities of color.
Jerry Gonzalez: It is very difficult for us to out organize voter suppression in this state. Some voters will not be able to cast their votes because of voter suppression.
Jaisal Noor: Earlier in the year, despite the onslaught of attacks on the right to vote in states around the country, which critics say curtail the growing power of African American, Latinx, and immigrant communities, Senate Democrats failed to pass measures that would’ve provided critical federal protections for voting rights.
Speaker 1: On this vote, the yeas are 49, the nays are 51, three-fifths of the senators, duly chosen and sworn, not having voted in the affirmative, the motion is not agreed to.
Jaisal Noor: In response to the flurry of new Republican voting laws, inspired in large part by former President Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud, President Joe Biden’s team has reportedly told voting rights activists to “out organize” voter suppression.
Jerry Gonzalez: These new changes to state law that have been put in place are hurting our communities.
Jaisal Noor: In perhaps the most egregious example, a 2021 Georgia law gave the Republican controlled legislature the power to subvert democratic elections, and created new hurdles to voting.
Speaker 2: The bill grants broad power to state officials to take control of election management from local and county election boards. It also adds new voter ID requirements, severely limits mail ballot drop boxes, and rejects ballots cast in the wrong precinct. One provision would even make it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
Jaisal Noor: Such laws are being passed at a moment when the power of communities of color to shape election outcomes is rapidly increasing. Case in point, Georgia’s Latinx community has grown by 30% over the past decade, and now comprises 10% of the state’s population
Jerry Gonzalez: From 2016 to 2020, the Latino electorate grew by well over 150,000 new voters.
Jaisal Noor: Jerry Gonzalez is CEO of the Georgia [Association] of Latino Elected Officials, or GALEO, an advocacy group that helps Latinx communities unlock their political power. And despite a litany of restrictive voting laws passed since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the Latinx community is participating in record numbers in Georgia.
Jerry Gonzalez: The Latino electorate has outpaced the national Latino voter participation rate for several election cycles, including in 2020, there was record breaking turnout of the Latino electorate.
Jaisal Noor: GALEO serves the community by bringing resources like voter registration information directly to them.
Brenda Gutierrez: It’s very hard to find resources. There’s not a lot of resources provided to the Latino community.
Jaisal Noor: Brenda Gutierrez joined GALEO as a community organizer to help educate and mobilize voters.
Brenda Gutierrez: I hear it a lot within my community that they’re like, oh, why does our vote matter? It probably doesn’t even matter.
Jaisal Noor: And to show them they hold real power.
Brenda Gutierrez: Not only does the community need resources in order to thrive, but also them holding elected officials accountable.
Jaisal Noor: Passed last year, Senate Bill 202, the so-called Election Integrity Act of 2021, created even more obstacles to voting based on the lie that voting fraud cost Donald Trump the 2020 election. Among the implemented restrictions, at least one county has eliminated Sunday voting, and early voting must now end before 5:00 PM, creating barriers for working people who can’t get to the polls during work hours.
And there are new limits on voting by mail and the use of drop boxes, which critics say could lead to longer lines at the polls. Supporters of the law insist these were emergency measures to deal with the pandemic and are no longer needed.
Darrick Alvarez: Breaks our ability to be able to go out and vote. It completely stops people from wanting to go out and wait in long lines when there’s few voting machines. It makes for absentee voting to not be possible for voters. It makes it harder when it’s only during the day for people to be able to take off of work.
Jaisal Noor: GALEO community organizer Darrick Alvarez says these restrictive voting laws discourage voters from participating in elections and exercising their most sacred democratic right.
Darrick Alvarez: It makes it even harder for organizations like us to be able to go out there and offer election protection, offer translation services in the lines, and just be able to be out there, comes down to not even being able to pass out simply water.
Jaisal Noor: GALEO has joined lawsuits against the state of Georgia which are seeking to overturn Senate Bill 202, but with an absence of federal voting rights protections, they are forced to focus their efforts on mitigating the impacts these laws will have and are already having on voters.
Darrick Alvarez: And then we do everything that we can to do everything bilingually. Offer events, flyers, go out and have conversations with our communities, because with the knowledge they’ll have the power and to be able to make the decisions and go out there and vote.
Jaisal Noor: The pandemic created unique challenges for voters and canvassers alike, and limited social interactions.
Darrick Alvarez: Being extremely conscious of the pandemic, we did not knock on doors to have conversations. We just made sure to keep everyone safe on our team and just leave flyers at doors, and to make sure not to approach any voters if they were to come out.
Jaisal Noor: Despite these challenges, Alvarez feels like he’s making an impact.
Darrick Alvarez: Having people tell us, wow, we’ve never had anyone knock on our door and speak to us in Spanish or offer literature in Spanish. So by being out there, the community’s reaction to our efforts have shown us a piece of the impact that we’re making on them.
Jaisal Noor: And those impacts are tangible. In the past six years, the Latinx electorate has nearly doubled to close to 285,000 voters in Georgia. And GALEO has shifted the scope of their work from four to 10 counties.
Jerry Gonzalez: President Biden won Georgia by 11,000 votes in the previous gubernatorial election. We had the current governor win by 55,000 votes. Well, the Latino electorate is 285,000 strong. So the Latinos can and will determine the outcome of the next election here in Georgia.
Jaisal Noor: GALEO CEO Jerry Gonzalez says genuine community engagement and empowerment are the keys to their success.
Jerry Gonzalez: You’re meeting the community where they are, understanding their needs and the opportunities for engagement are critical. And that’s where locally based organizations like GALEO and others that we partner with are vitally important to do this type of work, because we have earned the respect and the trust of our communities.
Jaisal Noor: For The Real News with Jeffrey Moustache, this is Jaisal Noor.