Georgia––for the fourth time since the pandemic ground the nation and the world to a halt in March––is facing yet another election amid rising COVID-19 cases. While our priority as a coalition has always been driving civic engagement and protecting the voting rights of all Georgians, this year we have the added responsibility of keeping voters, poll workers, and election officials safe.
In a democracy, equal access to the ballot box is critical and so is the enthusiastic participation of volunteers who make elections happen and protect that asset. There is no greater testament to the incredible work of Georgians across the state than the nationwide excitement we’ve seen in response to the January 5th runoffs. We are heartened by the responses we’ve received and look forward to helping all prospective volunteers get involved in the runoffs––from their homes.
Our coalition is diverse and represents Black and marginalized communities, whom we are working tirelessly to get out the vote, and those are the same communities that are being disproportionately impacted by the virus.
COVID-19 is threatening Georgia’s healthcare system, which is already being stretched to its limits. State leaders are pleading with out-of-state volunteers to find ways to contribute from their homes and we agree wholeheartedly.
As much as we welcome the enthusiasm about our upcoming Senate runoffs and understand the desire some may feel to contribute to the elections, we do not condone people coming from out of state to do voter registration and canvassing in Georgia. In fact, we highly discourage those efforts.
Our coalition and others across the state are working together on an agreement not to canvass given current events. While we understand that in-person voter contact can be one of the most effective ways to get people engaged, we are very mindful of the very real threat that this virus poses to our communities. This is also why we remain fervent advocates of voting by mail.
Even as democracy hangs in the balance, we simply cannot put lives at risk even as we continue to protect the right to vote. While, we understand that there are instances in which in-person contact is the only or best feasible means of engaging would-be voters, and in those cases, some organizations are conducting contactless canvassing and staying safe – and protecting others – by using PPE. Well-trained organizers who are familiar with these communities and the proper protocol to maintain to increase safety outcomes are the only people who should be out and about doing in-person voter outreach. In most instances, out of state residents simply don’t have the training or the time to best understand the landscape in order to safely engage in this process.
The most important thing our coalition can and will do at this time is to raise awareness about the importance of voting in the U.S. Senate runoffs, while also taking care of each other and keeping everyone as safe as possible.
Out of state volunteers interested in participating in the elections should stay home and find ways to plug in by visiting GoVoteGA.org, contributing monetary donations to help get out the vote in much-needed communities, and exploring virtual volunteer opportunities, which includes text and phone banking and virtual canvass parties.
When the January runoffs approach in a mere matter of weeks, we look forward to seeing Georgian’s excitement carried over from the November general election and multiplied––in a safe and secure election.