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Activists Begin Registering Young Voters In Preparation For Georgia's Runoff Election

SARAH MCCAMMON, HOST:

Young voters helped turn Georgia blue this year, and they made up 21% of the turnout earlier this month, the highest youth voter participation of any state in the country. And with those two Senate races still in play, there's another push to get more young people out to vote, specifically aimed at those who turned 18 after Election Day, just in time for the two Senate runoffs on January 5. Brian Nunez is digital organizing manager with Georgia Shift, a group focused on young voter education. He joins us now from Atlanta.

Hi, Brian.

BRIAN NUNEZ: Thank you for having me.

MCCAMMON: So how are you tracking down these newly minted 18-year-olds?

NUNEZ: There's about 23,000 that we know of that are going to turn 18 by January 5, so we want to make sure that all of these young voters are not only registered but they know when to request their absentee ballot and, you know, get them set up.

MCCAMMON: And then how are you communicating with them?

NUNEZ: So we definitely want to meet them where they're at. Not only are we doing a social media push - apps like Instagram and, of course, TikTok - but we're also texting because we've seen that those have been the most successful ways. I think that the only thing that we have seen being a little bit slowed down has been our outreach in college campuses that we have not been able to do now.

MCCAMMON: And, Brian, as you get the word out specifically to these new voters - the people just turning 18 who couldn't vote in November but will be eligible to vote in January - what are you hearing from them?

NUNEZ: So I can actually tell you that I have very close access to a person like that because my little brother is one of those people. So it is very exciting that I've been having him actually come talk to me like, hey, if I go to college, am I going to have astronomical debt? Is there going to be COVID relief for my parents? And I think that that is something that has a different reality with Black and brown communities being, of course, more affected by everything going on with the pandemic.

MCCAMMON: Your work focuses mostly on engaging young people of color in Georgia. What do you think it is that drove extraordinary turnout among that group this year?

NUNEZ: I definitely think that it was because the messaging that was put out by Black and brown and Asian Pacific organizations were in their languages. That's the first thing. And the second thing is because the messaging was not done with a team of just random people from outside of the state. It was, like, young people of color that are, like, from Georgia - you know, homegrown and they know what works and what doesn't. I really appreciate when somebody comes from outside of the state and wants to help and lets the local organizers take the lead.

MCCAMMON: Brian, your organization, Georgia Shift, is nonpartisan, but we have seen that young people of color tend to vote primarily for Democrats. What do you think that could mean for these two crucial Georgia Senate races?

NUNEZ: There's a lot on the line. We might be the deciding vote, to be completely honest. I think that we've been saying it for a while. Georgia is now definitely purple and has, you know, what comes with being a swing state. So you're going to be treated like a Wisconsin or a Pennsylvania, you know?

MCCAMMON: That's Brian Nunez with Georgia Shift.

Thanks so much for being with us.

NUNEZ: Thank you, Sarah. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.