ATLANTA — Former first lady Michelle Obama closed out a star-studded “Celebrate Georgia!” drive-in concert event on Sunday by delivering an impassioned plea by video to help Democrats retake control of the U.S. Senate by winning two runoff elections on Jan. 5.
“There are a lot of people out there who are counting on you to sit this election out,” Obama said as more than 150 cars honked their horns as she lit up five large screens in the parking lot of the Cellairis Amphitheatre. “But if you take charge of your power, you and the folks in your community can determine the direction of this state and this country.
“Thousands of people from Savannah to Augusta to Atlanta have already voted,” she added. “And we’re counting on you to talk with your friends and family about making a plan to vote on Election Day.”
Other notable live guests at the event included musical artists Monica, Rick Ross and Jeezy, all of whom performed. Rapper Common, actress Tracee Ellis Ross and professional basketball player Chris Paul were among those who appeared via video.
The event was co-hosted by Obama’s When We All Vote, a nonprofit organization launched to increase voter participation, and the New Georgia Project, a progressive grassroots group seeking to register Georgians to vote.
“I know that we can count on you because you all are leaders when it comes to voter participation,” Obama said. “When we all vote, we make sure we’re the ones shaping our future.”
With early voting having ended Thursday, more than 3 million Georgians have already voted in the Senate runoffs, according to state election data. These sorts of off-cycle contests typically draw much lower turnout than the higher-profile presidential contest, but these two races have attracted national attention.
Republicans currently hold the majority of Senate seats, 50-48, meaning Democratic candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock would both need to win to give Vice President-elect Kamala Harris the tiebreaking vote in a deadlocked chamber. If either loses, Republicans would maintain control of the Senate and retain the ability to block Democratic initiatives and shoot down President-elect Joe Biden’s Cabinet appointments.
Georgia went Democratic in the presidential election by roughly 12,000 votes, flipping the state for the first time since 1992, but critics question whether it is actually turning more progressive. Two days from the runoff races, President Trump continues to loom large. On Saturday, he was recorded on a call threatening Georgia’s Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, with the possibility of criminal charges if he did not “find 11,780 votes” to overturn the final result in the state.
The runoff elections will show if Georgia has become more friendly to Democrats when Trump isn’t directly on the ballot.
“We are America’s new swing state,” New Georgia Project CEO Nsé Ufot said at Sunday’s event. “Our vote is a tool to protect ourselves.”
Patricia Carr, who attended Sunday’s event, never thought her vote mattered before this year.
“Now that the state is turning blue, I know my vote matters,” Carr, 49, told Yahoo News. “I am most confident that Warnock and Ossoff are going to win on Tuesday.”
Nazar Turner brought her teenage daughter to the event to enjoy the artists but also to stress the importance of voting.
“I vote because my people couldn’t vote and they died for it,” Turner, 42, told Yahoo News. “Women couldn’t vote 50 years ago.”
Turner added that hearing Obama speak meant everything.
“She was our first Black first lady,” she said. “Her speech for my child is building importance in our lineage. She knows by the time she’s 18 she has to vote.”
Below are key dates for Georgians to remember ahead of the state’s Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5.
(Cover thumbnail photo by Elijah Nouvelage via Getty Images)
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