From messaging potential voters on dating apps to helping pay for Uber rides to the polls, young people across the country are playing a role in the Georgia Senate runoff elections from afar, and they’re getting creative with digital techniques while doing so.
Youth turnout was high across the country on Election Day and national organizers are hoping to re-energize young voters ahead of the crucial Georgia elections that will determine which party controls the US Senate.
Students, influencers and celebrities got to work as soon as they realized both of Georgia’s Senate seats were heading to runoffs on January 5, as no candidate won more than 50% of the vote in November.
With just five days to go until the contests, young people across the country continue to contact voters in Georgia.
On the left, Students for Ossoff and Warnock, a youth-led organization unaffiliated with the Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock campaigns but working to drum up support for the Democratic candidates, has mobilized a group of national field organizers, who live out of state but work to turn out voters for the two Georgia Democrats. They organize digitally by hosting Zoom calls and phone banks and help run the organization’s viral TikTok account.
According to Emily Zanieski, a student at Georgia Southern University who helps lead national programming for the organization, Students for Ossoff and Warnock has attracted members from Students for Markey — a group that gained national attention for their wit and humor online while helping Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey win his Democratic primary in September.
Zanieski, 20, said that Students for Ossoff and Warnock has also gained popularity in neighboring South Carolina.
“Seeing so many young people across the country who were excited about Biden, now helping out here is motivating to keep us doing the good work here in Georgia,” Zanieski told CNN.
For its part, Sunrise Movement, the progressive youth-led climate justice organization, has mobilized their 400-plus local hubs to call and text into Georgia. The group is prioritizing contact with young voters who are under the age of 35. Since November, more than 1,000 Sunrise volunteers have made more than 500,000 calls, sent over 299,000 texts and reached 18,700 young voters in Georgia, according to the organization.
Getting creative with digital techniques
In addition to traditional calls and texts, some organizers are turning to alternative modes of organizing.
Plus1 Vote, a New York-based nonpartisan organization that encourages voters to bring a plus one to the polls to increase turnout, is providing free Uber rides to the polls across Georgia for early voting, absentee ballot drop off and on Election Day. Georgians are encouraged to use the voucher code “VoteGA” in the Uber app to receive their free ride to the polls.
Meanwhile, organizers with “Swipe Out the Vote Georgia” are using dating apps such as Tinder and Hinge to contact Georgia voters and ensure they have a plan to vote. According to messaging from the group, the technique is “for those who are tired of phone banking and texting, and want to try something new and exciting.”
Using opening lines such as “Wanna know what I think is cute?” and replying with “Voting for Warnock and Ossoff in the election on January 5th!” about 100 volunteers between the ages of 18-35 have signed up, set their geo-location to Georgia and swipe in the Peach State.
The group emphasizes that participants must use their own photos and suggests that volunteers add political and progressive content to their bio on the apps.
Celebrities and influencers from across the country have Georgia on their minds too.
Tommy Dorfman, an Atlanta native and 28-year-old actor who starred in “13 Reasons Why,” has encouraged their 1.4 million Instagram followers to get involved in and pay attention to the Georgia runoff elections.
“This election in particular feels extremely personal to me because I am a trans person from Georgia,” Dorfman, who went to the same K-12 school as Ossoff but now lives on the West Coast, told CNN.
Although Dorfman did not travel home to Georgia ahead of the elections because of the Covid-19 pandemic, they emphasized the role they continue to play from afar and encourage their followers — most of whom are between the ages of 12-25 — to do the same.
“I like reminding people they can do stuff from their couch and their bed, changing their geo locator down to (Georgia), everyday there are Zoom events,” Dorfman said.
Dorfman has been especially active in the runoff elections given their ties to Georgia, going live on Instagram with Ossoff to talk about the election and hosting phone banks with Students for Ossoff and Warnock.
Likewise, AJ from the American pop-duo Aly & AJ, is teaming up with 18by.Vote and Peaches for Progress, a youth-led coalition working to turn out young voters in Georgia, for a “Georgia Youth Get Out the Vote Text Bank” on January 4.
And NextGen America, the progressive youth vote organization founded by businessman Tom Steyer, has recruited 138 influencers on TikTok and Instagram to give voters key info about the elections.
On the right, College Republicans has hosted a “National Call Competition,” encouraging College Republican chapters nationwide to compete in a phone-banking competition to see which chapter can make the most phone calls for Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue, the Republican incumbents.
About 300 College Republicans are making phone calls from home, according to the organization.
So far, New Hampshire College Republicans, Virginia College Republicans, West Virginia College Republicans, Tennessee College Republicans and California College Republicans have been victorious in various weeks of the competitions. Alaska College Republicans have also been quite active, according to the national organization.
“We cannot easily knock doors, although some of us will be heading down to GA to do so, so I have asked that our chapter presidents sign themselves, and as many members who are willing, up to make calls to Georgia, and to make 10 calls a day — which will add up over time. To really make a difference in Georgia — from Washington State — requires persistence and accountability from College Republicans to do their part, even if they do not feel like their efforts matter,” Gabe Hernandez, chairman of Washington State College Republicans, told CNN.
And although Gen Z GOP, a group that looks to build a new home for young Republicans disenfranchised with the current state of the Republican Party, did not endorse a candidate for president in the 2020 election, the group is also holding phone banks for Perdue and Loeffler.
“While aspects of this election represent the worst of American politics, it is important that President-elect Biden works with a Republican-controlled Senate to ensure policies enacted represent a wide-range of political viewpoints and perspectives,” the group writes on their site. “That being said, we encourage you to sign up below to help us to phone bank for our Republican candidates in the Georgia run-off election.”