ATLANTA — Georgia’s voting rolls have swollen over the last 10 months. Many of those newly-registered voters are new to the state, and Democrats think they’re going to help flip the state next year.
The surge is rooted in a new state law that automatically registered hundreds of thousands of new voters.
Although grassroots voter registration efforts like this one get much of the attention – the biggest source of new voters is the state Department of Driver Services. It’s where people go to get driver’s licenses.
The state has been transferring info of newly licensed drivers onto the Secretary of State’s database that enrolls new voters. New drivers can opt out of that. If they don't, newly licensed drivers can become registered voters automatically, if the Secretary of State's office determines they legally qualify.
"I wasn’t aware that it was automatically submitted," said Charity Belusel, a newly-licensed driver we met Thursday. But she aims to use her new voter registration.
"Oh, I’m going to vote," she promised. "I’m going to vote."
John Williams, by contrast, told us he chose to opt out.
"I don't participate in it," he said of elections.
The state says more than 310,000 new voters have registered in 2019. Of those, 47 percent of them are people of color. Another 45 percent are under age 30, according to Fair Fight Georgia, the liberal group launched by Democrat Stacey Abrams.
Democrats think new voters will help them flip the Republican-led state next election.
State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta) said most new voters move to neighborhoods in Georgia's urban and suburban communities.
"And we know those electorates tend to vote Democratic," Nguyen said. "So I feel excited about" the upsurge in new voters.
Georgia Republicans say they aren’t conceding any newly registered voters to the Democrats. Republicans haven't lost a statewide election since 2006.
If the trend continues, there could be three-quarters of a million new voters in Georgia for next year's presidential election - in a state where only 55,000 votes separated the victorious Republican Brian Kemp from Abrams in the 2018 governor's race.