Phone Calls, Texts and Tinder — Georgia Campaigns Court Young Voters | #tinder | #pof

ATLANTA — Invigorated by a surge in voter turnout in November that delivered a victory in Georgia for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in her life, and forced runoffs in two high-profile, high-stakes Senate races, Patricia Granda-Malaver got to work.

Ms. Granda-Malaver, 22, began working on phone banks and walking up to strangers, whether at her dentist’s office or the grocery store, asking whether they were registered to vote. She saw Georgia was changing and she wanted a diverse coalition of young voters to be the ones driving that change.

“Keeping up that momentum is something we’re really aware of,” she said of herself and other young voters who have spent the last two months focused on participation in Tuesday’s runoff races. The contests pit Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, both Republicans, against Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, both Democrats, in races that will determine which party controls the Senate.

As hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into Georgia, few groups have been as vigorously pursued as young voters.

Voter registration efforts and political campaigns have tried to reach them through TikTok videos, poetry readings and drive-in events with celebrities. College Republicans have had phone-banking competitions, while other volunteer groups have approached young voters on dating apps, such as Tinder.

The work has paid off. More than 75,000 new voters registered ahead of the runoffs, and more than half of them were under the age of 35. There had been an intense focus on 23,000 young people who were not old enough to vote in November but qualified to do so in the runoffs.

Early voting began in mid-December, and so far, more than three million people have cast their ballots — about 75 percent of the early votes cast in November’s general election, which set turnout records. Over 360,000 early voters in the runoffs were between the ages of 18 and 29, according to data maintained by

Voter registration groups and activists feared that it would be a struggle to mobilize voters for a runoff. Typically, it’s difficult, and some worried that voters would have been left disenchanted, or at least uninterested, after weeks of recounts, legal challenges and bruising rhetoric spurred by President Trump’s campaign to overturn his loss in Georgia. On Saturday, he continued his crusade, urging the secretary of state to “find” votes that could overturn the outcome.

Instead, with all eyes on the state, Georgia has in many ways been electrified. That has especially been true for many young voters whose political awakenings have been powered by a year of turbulence. The pandemic and corresponding economic pain upended their lives, and the protests set off by the deaths of African-Americans in encounters with the police forced them to grapple with the enduring reach of institutional racism.

Imani Bennett, a sophomore at Spelman College, could sense that evolution happening in Georgia as she canvassed neighborhoods. “We’re actually changing,” she said of Georgia. “People are listening.”

The intense interest surrounding the runoffs has reached across party lines.

“I think that young voters have felt so disconnected from politics and their voice was not heard,” said Bryson Henriott, a sophomore at the University of Georgia and the political director for the College Republicans chapter. “They’re the ones door-knocking for these campaigns, they are the ones on social media. Now that young people feel like they have a voice in politics, they’re going to stay focused.”

“Nothing underscores the power of their vote like winning the election,” said Nsé Ufot, the chief executive of the New Georgia Project, an organization aimed at registering and mobilizing people of color and young people. “Seeing the power of their vote in real time is way more effective than the nine months of message research that we’ve done.”

Still, Mr. Biden’s win was a galvanizing event for conservatives as well — to “make sure that Georgia stays red,” Mr. Henriott said. “We don’t want to become this swing state.” He, like other Republicans, noted that the implications went beyond Mr. Trump, citing “court packing” and the economy as driving concerns as the party tries to maintain control of the Senate.

Among younger voters more broadly, the prevailing issues have been climate change, student debt, criminal justice reform and addressing racial inequality.

The sprawling efforts to register more voters across Georgia have zeroed in on young people of color, using targeted messaging in advertisements, social media and virtual events to reach a segment of potential voters that voter registration efforts and political campaigns have struggled over the years to activate.

“How does Nike know I’m interested in Nike shoes?” said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and chief executive of Voto Latino. “We do a similar kind of targeting but for democracy.”

Ms. Kumar said that her group’s efforts have relied on connections its members have to the communities they want to reach — communities that might be wary of being taken advantage of or might have a history of being overlooked as voters. And that has to figure into the messaging.

For her organization and others, that has translated into art installations and concerts with popular hip-hop artists like Moneybagg Yo and Mulatto. Las Cafeteras, a Chicano band from East Los Angeles, recorded a half-English, half-Spanish version of Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind” — a rendition intended to reflect the rising tide of Black and Latino voters in the state. It also underscored that the interest in the runoffs extended far beyond Georgia.

Whatever the outcome of Tuesday’s contests, the efforts over the last two months have signaled a surge in Black, Latino and Asian participation.

“There is very much a feeling of hope,” said Ms. Granda-Malaver, who is working as a fellow for Voto Latino. “But I want to do more for my community — for people who look like me, for my parents, for people who aren’t usually considered to be part of the Southern narrative but we’re very much here.”

Ms. Granda-Malaver, who was born in Peru, grew up in the suburbs of Gwinnett County, just outside of Atlanta. She was the first Latina valedictorian of her high school, and she remembered translating for her mother a speech by the governor at a graduation-related event. Nathan Deal, the governor at the time, told the group of high-achieving graduates that he knew many would leave Georgia for college. But he urged them to return and establish themselves as leaders in the state.

“You have to come back,” her mother told her, knowing she would soon be leaving for Columbia University in New York.

She did not intend to return, but as she saw Georgia changing, she changed her mind as well.

“After four years, I’m back,” she said, “and I want to stay and keep doing the work.”

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