New voters could be pivotal in upcoming election - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

New voters could be pivotal in upcoming election

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - Tens of thousands of people normally do not register to vote, but the New Georgia Project and other organizations have collected nearly 120,000 new voter registration forms in Georgia since March.

Many of them are minorities, and experts say new voters could play a pivotal role in the November election.

The New Georgia Project is a voter registration campaign that says it's a "nonpartisan" effort and campaign, according to its website. It targets black, Latino and Asian American residents to register and vote.

"The New Georgia Project is a way to register new voters, and in many cases, they tend to be minority residents," explained Dr. Fred Gordon, the chairman of Columbus State University's Political Science Department. "It's trying to get as much voter participation as possible. But often times, instead of getting people to simply vote, it turns many voters polarized in terms of partisanship. I think this is where the concern rises."

Dr. Gordon says a large number of minority voters tend to be reliable base for Democrats.

"There's a historical background and maybe many people felt discrimination, issues or other competing concerns in the past," Dr. Gordon said. "But often times, those who haven't registered tend to be minority groups and individuals and it's certainly accessible for Democratic Party officials to make up some of those differences."

About 180,000 voters were added to the rolls since last March, but only one-third of these new voters described themselves as white. Democrats favor this new trend while Republicans are concerned about the number.

"I feel the New Georgia Project's initiative is very helpful," William Viruet, the vice chairman of the 2nd Congressional District Georgia Democratic Party said. "They are out there getting people to register and getting them involved in the voting process. Everyone needs to vote. I truly believe that the benefit is going to come to the Demographic side. We are going to make history, and Democrats are going to pull victory."

Rick Allen, the chairman of Muscogee County Republican Party, said he still believes a large number of Republican candidates will pull through for this year's election.

"I'm sure the New Georgia Project might influence voting somehow," Allen said. "But again, how many of those people are going to actually participate in the process? How many of those people are going to vote? Evidently, those people have never voted before, so are they really going to follow through for this year? However, I think this is still a Republican State and Georgia is still dominated by Republicans so I feel confident we are going to turn out big."

Republicans claimed every statewide office in the 2010 election, but that number recovered in 2012. Now, both Democrats and Republicans are going after voters who tend to avoid participating in elections in non-presidential years.

"It's hard to determine what the linear approach of the New Georgia Project is," Gordon explained. "But I think the big idea of the campaign is to search and collect new votes. But where are you going to find these new votes? Obviously, you can try to sway people, but it's difficult sometimes. People are much traditional and they don't easily switch their beliefs or political parties. So the next best option is to go for people who could vote but just haven't registered yet. This could be a potential gold mine for either party."

The Nov. 4 election is less than two weeks away. The election will include big races like a U.S. Senate seat as well as the Georgia Governor race.

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