ATLANTA — People across the country are keeping an eye on Georgia as the state waits for the remaining absentee ballots to be counted. Because the race is so close, a winner has not yet been declared in the presidential election.
While it was anticipated Georgia would be one of the last states to report its voting totals, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said it is his intention to have all votes reported by Wednesday night.
Meanwhile, the answer to who will take all of Georgia’s 16 electoral college votes depends on who you ask.
On the TODAY Show, Raffensperger predicted President Trump would win the state. With the president holding a slight lead Brad Raffensberger said, “You look at how many votes are out there, even if one of the candidates got 100 percent, it wouldn’t be enough to move them one way or the other.”
But just moments earlier, Emory political science professor Bernard Fraga, said absentee ballots would change the race.
“Biden will be the president-elect,” Fraga predicted.
The polarizing predictions are evidence of an incredibly close race in Georgia. Indeed, by 7:30 p.m. on the day after the election, Trump led Biden in Georgia by just 46,000 votes, a drastic difference from the overnight hours, when the president held a comfortable lead.
“It’s the strongest showing by a Democratic presidential candidate since Bill Clinton in 1992,” said Emory Professor Alan Abramowitz.
In that election, then-Governor Bill Clinton won the state with 43% of the vote.
Both political science professors Fraga and Abramowitz sayid the changing face of Georgia’s population is key.
“The Georgia ten years ago is not the Georgia we have today, in terms of the demographic composition of the electorate,” Fraga explained.
Since 1992, the state has grown by nearly 4 million people, and, according to the US Census, of those 24% are Hispanic and 45% are Black. Both groups historically tend to vote Democrat.
The race between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden also motivated many new voters to head to the polls. According to Fraga, 40,000 Latino voters, 260,000 Black voters, and 430,000 white voters that skipped the last presidential election went to the polls in 2020.
Abramowitz was quick to point out - white doesn’t mean Republican.
“What Biden has done in Georgia that has put it in play is, he’s won close to 30 percent of the white vote in Georgia," he said. "So, that’s up from 21 percent for Hillary Clinton in 2016.”
COVID is a big reason why.
“The shutdowns that you’ve seen have been destructive to the economy, but at the same time, we’re seeing a resurgence in the cases, which indicates we’re not out of the woods yet," Fraga said. "I think that for many voters, especially college-educated voters, that dynamic and the COVID-19 pandemic, are really key and have really shaped their vote choice."
He predicted the job losses and deaths associated with COVID will impact voting decisions in our state for years. That’s not to say Democrats will maintain all of their gains in the state. Fraga admits President Trump has been a polarizing figure. With a new candidate on the ballot, Republicans who strayed may return. He said a lot will depend on the decisions Congress and the next administration make.
“Voters will be thinking about, 'what they did to control the pandemic?' when they consider who to trust their lives to for future, unexpected kinds of disasters," he said.