Opinion Columns & Blogs

985,535, 45,722 and 2020: Why these numbers mean so much to Georgia Democrats

Stacey Abrams, having lost to Brian Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race, is making a play for Democrat money in Georgia in 2020. In a lengthy memo, Abrams is trying to convince Democrat donors to pour resources in the state. With the presidency and now two Senate seats on the 2020 ballot, Abrams makes a persuasive case. But she leaves out two crucial numbers: 985,535 and 45,722.

Prior to Abrams running for governor, she dedicated time and major Democrat resources into finding and registering new voters. With the help of a nonprofit group and several Democrat affiliated groups, Abrams worked tirelessly to recruit new voters, re-register lapsed voters and ensure those on the verge of falling off the voter rolls took the necessary steps to stay on the rolls. The results speak for themselves. Abrams was able to increase the pool of registered voters in Georgia by 985,535 voters between 2016 and 2018.

To put this in perspective, the number of registered voters in Georgia has been remarkably consistent. In 2012’s election, Georgia had 5,428,980 registered voters. In 2014, Georgia had 5,191,182 registered voters. The decline was related to a legally required cleaning of the rolls to purge dead people, felons, people who had moved, people declared mentally incompetent and people who had not voted in eight continuous years and had not taken steps to keep their registration active.

In 2016, the number of voters in Georgia increased to 5,443,046 voters, which was only 14,066 more voters than voted in 2012. Remember, Abrams also conducted a voter registration drive in 2014 and 2016. They were not that successful. But she had refined her approach and between 2016 and 2018 played the most significant roll in adding 985,535 new registered voters. This brought Georgia’s total pool of registered voters up to 6,428,581 voters, the biggest two-year increase the state has seen.

While that is impressive, the other number is not. Despite adding close to one million new voters to the rolls, Abrams only increased the Democrat vote by 45,722 votes from 2016. Less than 5% of the million newly registered voters showed up if we presume that excess was the new voters and 100% went to Abrams. In truth, it is not that easy to say, but it is a good estimation.

There are a few more facts to consider as well. In 2018, Republicans turned out as they usually turn out — lower for a midterm election. In fact, the turn out was 61% of voters, down from the 77% of voters in 2016. Democrats turned out as if this were a presidential election year and Republicans turned out as they always do in midterm elections.

Fast forward to 2020 and Georgia will see Democrats turn out again at presidential levels, but they will also see Republicans turn out at presidential levels. That typically adds an additional 125,000 Republican votes to the top ballot races in the state. Abrams lost by 55,000 votes in 2018. In 2020, with the Democrats fully engaged as they were in 2018 and the Republicans fully engaged as they were not in 2018, her loss would be bigger.

One last relevant point is that more than 100,000 Republicans in Georgia refused to vote for Donald Trump in 2016, but most of those voted for Sen. Johnny Isakson. That suggests even if Republicans and suburban voters turn on President Trump, the two Senate seats will still be safely Republican. Georgia is headed towards the Democrats. But it will still be Republican in 2020.

Erick Erickson is host of “The Erick Erickson Show” heard statewide on radio.

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