Georgia isn’t the same state it was 35 years ago.
“Historically, Georgia has been a very black and white state, and it really is no longer a black and white state,” said Matt Hauer, demographer at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government and Outreach at the University of Georgia. “It is a very rapid diversifying state with a very large and growing Latino population and a very rapidly growing Asian population as well.”
These changes in demographics are also affecting the makeup of the Georgia electorate, making the state neither red nor blue but rather a blend of the two — purple.
“The Democratic Party is really trying to diversify the electorate, and the Republican Party also recognizes it,” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor who studies Southern politics. “Not everyone has a white mother anymore.”
For some, this change has shown preliminary results.
“The changing demographics of the state are making it so that parties with multiracial coalitions are more likely to win, and I think you’re starting to see that more of that on the left,” said Alex Rowell, president of the Young Democrats of the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County.
But race isn’t the only characteristic that is changing in Georgia.
According to the Voter Participation Center, there are a number of groups that are dramatically under-registered in the Rising American Electorate — people of color, unmarried women and young persons between the ages of 18 and 29.
This trend of unregistered voters means more than half of Georgia’s eligible voters are taken into account. According to 2010 data from the Voter Participation Center, Of Georgia’s 6.5 million residents who are able to vote, 57.2 percent make up the Rising American Electorate. These voters turn out at a rate of 63.3 percent, which is higher than the national average of 52.8 percent.
Though in this case, fertility isn’t the reason for the change in the electorate. This time it’s the state’s migrant patterns.
“Georgia has largely been defined within the last 30 years as an immigrant state,” Hauer said.
According to data collected between 2008 to 2012, the state’s population consisted of 55.3 percent of native Georgians, leaving the other 44.7 percent to be non-native Georgians, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
What’s attracting migrants to the state, Hauer said, is its economic outlook.
“I think Georgia is a great state. I’m a non-native Georgian and I think Georgia has a lot of economic opportunities for people across a race and ethnic boundaries and across education and income divides,” Hauer said. “Everybody wants a good living, a good wage, a good job. And Georgia has had those for pretty much for the last 20 years. People just want to have a better life.”
With these electorates registered to vote, both Republicans and Democrats have a large number of votes to gain. However, each party comes with its own setbacks.
“Republicans are doomed nationally because their economic policies … are ‘We’ll hold our breath until we turn blue,’” said Keith Poole, a political science professor. “‘We’ll let the country go bankrupt to prevent spending’ . . . and the Democrats are kinda ‘stuck on stupid’ on a lot of policies.”
Many groups aren’t asking voters to pick one party over the other. Instead, they want Georgia’s electorate to fully represent its residents.
But as for the New Georgia Project, the group has found its mission put on hold because of recent accusations of voter registration fraud.
This non-partisan effort aims to register and involve more voters in elections, but it was subpoenaed after 25 out of 85,000 voter-registration applications were found to be invalid. There were 26 other applications deemed suspicious.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp issued the subpoena after the “confirmation of 25 forged voter registration applications warranted an expansive investigation,” according to the Secretary of State’s website.
Some are viewing this investigation as a way to impede voter registration.
“What we know is there’s about 50,000 voter registration forms in limbo, and we’d like to see those processed,” said Rowell, a senior international affairs and economics major from Valdosta.
Others see it as a necessary step to assure all voter applications are accurate and legal.
“They’re set out to register vast amounts of minority voters, thousands of minority voters, which is great,” said Grant Thomas, the political director for the UGA College Republicans. “We want them to be involved and to be registered to vote. But the problem is some of those applications are fraudulent.”
With the Georgia population looking much differently than it did decades ago, Poole believes the politics have to change.
“What we need is insurgency,” said Poole, who studies political party polarization. “Someone who can connect with ordinary voters who have gotten screwed by the banks and by the political parties not doing anything for them.”