Election analysts who are attempting to predict the results of Georgia’s 2022 midterm elections by scrutinizing polls and analyzing historical trends are missing the elephant that is no longer in the room. The Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) will not be participating in the 2022 Georgia midterms.
Georgia SB 202, signed into law on March 5, 2021, prohibits Georgia election officials from accepting private election funding, which was the basis of CTCL’s notorious $330 million grant program under the guise of the Covid-19 “emergency” known as “Zuckbucks.”
CTCL spent $45 million building up an industrial-scale voter turnout machine for Democrats run through the election offices of counties in the greater Atlanta metro area and a handful of other deep blue Georgia counties during 2020.
Georgia received a higher level of CTCL funding than any other state, not because Georgia was unusually afflicted with Covid-19, but because greater Atlanta contains the largest concentrated pool of potential Democratic voters in the South. Georgia also presented the rare opportunity to swing two Senate seats into the Democratic win column in a single election in 2020.
The CTCL voter turnout machine was based on the promotion of increased absentee voting, widespread use of ballot drop boxes, increased staffing of election offices with partisan activists, expensive ballot canvassing and curing efforts, and targeted interactions with likely Democratic voters.
The Effect of CTCL on Georgia’s 2020 Election
Even when the CTCL machine was functioning at the highest pitch of efficiency — boosting turnout and skewing voting patterns in key Georgia jurisdictions — it still only managed to deliver Georgia to Joe Biden by about 12,000 votes. But Biden’s narrow margin of victory statewide obscures the full extent of the Biden blowout that occurred in the CTCL-targeted Atlanta metro counties, and the Trump blowout that had to occur throughout the rest of the state to narrow Biden’s victory.
The eight counties in the greater Atlanta metro area that CTCL focused on contain only 42 percent of Georgia’s population but received 87 percent of total CTCL spending in Georgia. The claim that CTCL funding was awarded on a nonpartisan basis among Republican- and Democratic-leaning jurisdictions is contradicted by the data from Georgia.
Biden would not have won Georgia without the huge gains he made compared to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign in the greater Atlanta metro counties. In the counties with large CTCL grants, approximately 80 percent of the additional votes recorded compared to 2016 went to Biden. In DeKalb, Cobb, and Douglas counties, the proportion of additional votes in 2020 that went to Biden compared to 2016 was more than 90 percent of the additional votes that were cast.
These highly skewed voting patterns, combined with a significant overall boost in Democrat turnout relative to Republican turnout, resulted in an increase in Biden’s margin over Trump of a staggering 269,429 votes in the eight greater Atlanta metro counties alone.
All of the Democratic-leaning, CTCL-targeted counties swung much more heavily Democratic, most notably Cobb County (an additional 15-point shift toward Democrats), Clayton County (a 12-point pro-Democrat shift), and Douglas County (a 15-point shift).
Interestingly, the pro-Democrat partisan shift in the two heavily Republican, CTCL-targeted greater Atlanta metro counties was even higher, with Cherokee County shifting by 12 points to Democrats, from R+52 to R+40, and Forsyth County shifting by a whopping 16 points in favor of Democrats, from R+50 to R+34.
Analysts have tended to cite the handful of Republican counties that received large CTCL grants and remained Republican as evidence of CTCL’s nonpartisanship, but statewide elections are not decided on the county level.
They are decided on the basis of vote totals, and Cherokee and Forsyth counties saw Biden votes increase by an astonishing average of 75 percent, or more than 35,000 additional Democratic votes compared to 2016.
Since Trump votes increased by an average of 15.5 percent compared to 2016 in the Atlanta metro counties — which was significantly higher than their 8 percent rate of population growth — it does not appear that Biden’s gains came from a seismic shift in preferences among Republicans voting Democrat to register their disapproval of Donald Trump. They seem to have resulted from precision targeting and mobilization of large numbers of new Democratic voters.
CTCL and the 2021 Georgia Senate Runoffs
The CTCL-financed voter turnout machine in Georgia may also have played a role in Republican losses in the Georgia Senate runoff elections on Jan. 5, 2021.
Even though Republican David Perdue technically “won” his election on Nov. 3, 2020, by a comfortable margin of 88,000 votes, his vote share of 49.7 percent required that a runoff election be held under Georgia’s unusual election laws. He subsequently lost the runoff election to Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff by 1.2 points, while fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler lost her race to Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, by 2 points.
Both runoff races saw about a 10 percent decrease in turnout compared to the general election, but this decrease was not evenly distributed across Georgia, or between Republicans and Democrats.
According to some analysts, the determining factor in the Senate runoffs was discouraged Republicans who did not show up for the runoff following Trump’s allegations of serious election irregularities and voter fraud, along with his declaration that Georgia’s Senate runoffs were “illegal and invalid.”
But this explanation ignores the fact that Democratic turnout fell as well, just not as much as Republican turnout. A better explanation would take into account that turnout historically falls across the board in runoff elections compared to general elections.
A major reason that Democratic turnout fell by significantly less than Republican turnout is that the CTCL-funded get-out-the-vote machine was still up and running, and operating at a high level of efficiency in the CTCL-funded counties. As a result, Democratic turnout fell by less than Republican turnout, especially among black voters in the greater Atlanta metro area.
‘Zuckbucks’ Will Be Sorely Missed by Georgia Democrats in 2022
Under the best of circumstances, Georgia would be difficult territory for Democrats in 2022. The last time Georgia voted for a Democratic presidential candidate before Biden was when Bill Clinton narrowly won the state in 1992, in large part as a result of Ross Perot’s independent candidacy siphoning off conservative votes from George H.W. Bush.
Georgia’s governor’s mansion has been occupied by a Republican since 2003. And if Georgia did not have a runoff system, Perdue would have easily won his Senate race on Nov. 3, 2021, against Ossoff by an 88,000-vote margin, a result that has been conveniently memory-holed by the corporate media.
But these are not the best of circumstances. Democratic candidates nationwide are running into strong headwinds as a result of inflation, high energy prices, increased crime, uncontrolled immigration, and an unpopular sitting president.
In 2020, the wind was blowing in favor of Democrats in Georgia, in the form of CTCL’s $45 million injection of funds into election offices in areas with large pools of potential Democrat voters, which financed a voter turnout scheme that heavily favored Democrat candidates. That wind will not be at their backs in 2022, which should result in solid Republican wins in Georgia’s high-profile governor and Senate races.
William Doyle, Ph.D., is research director at The Caesar Rodney Election Research Institute in Irving, Texas. He specializes in economic history and the private funding of American elections. Previously, he was associate professor and chair in the department of economics at the University of Dallas. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
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