Voters in Clayton County stood in line, in some places for more than two hours, to cast their vote in the U.S. Senate runoff between Sen. Raphael Warnock and challenger Herschel Walker.
At the Historic Courthouse in Clayton County, the line stretched all the way down the courthouse lawn and out onto the sidewalk, past the Christmas tree in the center of the lawn.
Early in the afternoon, three people, including Clayton County Republican Women’s Club President Della Ashley, held signs during a small prayer vigil on the sidewalk in front of the courthouse. A Clayton County Police officer and elections officials came down to see how far they were standing from the end of the voter line and determined they were not violating the posted 150-foot electioneering line, which was about halfway up the lawn. SB 202 forbids “line warming,” which is the act of handing out water or food to voters waiting in line. Voters in line are protected by a 25-foot buffer zone, which move as the line moves—meaning that no one can campaign for a candidate within 25 feet of a voter waiting to cast a ballot. The demonstrators’ signs did not mention Walker or abortion, but Walker is the only candidate in the race who runs a pro-life platform.
People generally were in a good mood, waiting patiently and chatting about politics and football.
Valerie Pounds said, “People do not understand where the real power is in terms of elections. The Congress and the House, that’s where the power is. It’s also the same place in the states. This is how we get laws passed, this is how laws are formulated. But nobody’s telling anybody this and the importance of it in terms of like, civics. Simple civics is no longer being taught. So everybody says, ‘Yeah, I’ve got to vote for the president.’ But the power is not in the presidency. It’s in this.”
Al Robinson said, “What brought me out today is, I feel like we need a Democrat in this seat. It’s important for us to keep this seat…it makes a difference, not only for the Democrats, but for the Republicans. Now the Republicans want this seat. But if they get this seat, they rule the whole Congress. The power, it’s not in the president, it’s in this position…the Democrats, they’ve really got to stand up and vote. Kids that’s in college, they’ve got to come out and vote. People at home watching the TV gotta come out and vote. Working people gotta come out and vote. All this is very important to everyone. And I hope everyone thinks it’s important.”
Pounds, whose mother was an activist for 80 years, knows what it was like for her mother not to be able to vote in Mississippi.
“I would be doing a disservice to her taking all this time to explain it to us and the next generation not to show up,” she said.
Robinson’s family also knew what it was like to be denied the right to vote.
“My grandmother, she told us about it,” he said. “She didn’t really get all into it but she tried to keep it away from the family. She didn’t want anybody to see how bad [it was]. Once we got older, we see it, we experience it in different states—I have experienced it in different states. I see it here. Now, they’re doing it so undercover, if you don’t keep up with what’s going on in the news, keep up with what’s going on in the Congress, we’ll be set back behind again.”
Later, at the Morrow Convention Center, Warnock addressed a rally of Clayton County Democrats, who were joined by special guests Waka Flocka Flame and Lynn Whitfield. Chairman Jeff Turner introduced Warnock, who jogged onto the stage and joked with the crowd.
AUDIO: Warnock addresses Clayton County Dems
“It’s pretty cool to vote for yourself for Senate,” Warnock told cheering local Democratic leaders. Among those present were State Sen. Gail Davenport, State Sen. Valencia Seay, State Rep. Rhonda Burnough, District 2 Commissioner Gail Hambrick, District 4 Commissioner DeMont Davis, former Tax Commissioner Terry Baskin, Morrow Councilwoman Dorothy Dean, Morrow Councilwoman Renee Knight Saunders, Clayton County Democrats Chair Sukari Johnson, environmental activist Felicia Davis, NAACP Chair C. Synamon Baldwin, former District 1 candidate and 2020 alternate elector Alaina Reaves, and dozens of others.
Warnock, who was about 30 minutes late after rallying and casting his vote on Metropolitan Avenue in Atlanta, reviewed some of his accomplishments for the crowd.
“Capped the cost of insulin,” he began.
Several called out, “Thank you.”
“My honor,” he replied, placing his hand over his heart.
“Capped the cost of prescription drugs, is the single largest tax cut for middle and working class families in American history. Secured $6 billion for historically black colleges and universities. Secured debt relief for farmers. Said to the President of the United States while sitting in the Oval Office, ‘Sir, I need you to do meaningful student debt relief. You said you were going to do and we need you to do it. Not, by the way, $10,000 isn’t enough.’ And he did 20,000. So the folks who are Pell Grant eligible, I think, having Senator Warnock in the Oval Office, a graduate of Morehouse College, who went to Morehouse College on a full paid scholarship, who knows what it’s like to struggle to get through school, having me in that office, so I could sit in the Oval Office to advocate for our children and our families, made a huge difference.”
He added, “If you hadn’t sent me to the Senate, Ketanji Brown Jackson wouldn’t be sitting on the Supreme Court. When I say that, I’m not taking a thing from her. She is qualified. More than qualified. But even with all of her qualifications, if you had not sent me to the Senate, she wouldn’t be sitting on the court. They never even would have brought her up before the committee. You think if Mitch McConnell was in charge, she would have been up there in front of the committee? We never would have brought her up. You have the recent history. You know. So vote. It makes a difference.”
He continued, “Now follow me, listen to this. I’ve got colleagues who had the nerve to say Ketanji Brown Jackson, with all of her brilliance, with all of her preparation, is not qualified. And then those same colleagues of mine who said Ketanji Brown Jackson is not qualified, are running around right now, endorsing and campaigning for Herschel Walker.”
The crowd groaned, clapped, and laughed.
“In what universe is Ketanji Brown Jackson unqualified and Herschel Walker is qualified?”
The crowd applauded and shouted.
“Let me go Waycross on you,” Warnock joked. “My mama would say that they said she weren’t qualified and then, and then, fixed their mouths to say—”
The audience called out in approval.
“Those who know, know,” Warnock replied, drawing laughs.
“Fixed their mouths to say—all right, I’m sorry. I got sophisticated folks here. They had the unmitigated audacity to say that ‘Herschel Walker, he is qualified.’ Really? Herschel Walker is as much a United States senator as he is a police officer. This race is about who’s ready and who’s fit to represent eleven million people for the next six years. This isn’t just about the next year or two. That’s the problem. We’re on such short-term vision.
“Folks just say, ‘Well, we don’t need to worry about it. We got a majority.’ This is about who’s going to represent you for the next six years.”
In Forest Park, about two blocks on the other side of Starr Park from the polling location, the Clayton County NAACP held a mini-festival, with a DJ, a taco truck, and a mobile video gaming truck for the kids. Baldwin sported a bright African dress and headwrap, jollying up the volunteers and making sure the Youth Council left the recreation center as clean as they had found it.
Robinson wants people to know there’s more to democracy than voting.
“You gotta not only vote, you gotta get involved,” he said. “See what they doing, see what they discussing, see what laws they changing. If you don’t get involved in that, the people gonna be left behind.”
The Clayton Crescent has made it easy for you to find early voting locations. See our story about the election and polling places.
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