You may remember the New Georgia Project from the 2014 elections. It was an effort spearheaded by House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams to register 120,000 new minority voters that would potentially vote for Democratic candidates Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn. After some controversy over missing voter registration forms that eventually amounted to nothing, the effort came up short and drew criticism from some within the Democratic Party that Abrams should have minded her knitting in the Gold Dome instead.
Today, Max Blau, who has done yeoman’s work covering the New Georgia Project in the past, brings us the news that Abrams has set a new goals of registering 170,000 voters before the presidential election and running a GOTV effort that will get up to 600,000 voters that don’t normally cast a ballot to the polls. She hopes to raise $10 million to support the effort.
These details are outlined in a pair of fundraising memos obtained by Atlanta magazine. Abrams has asked Democracy Alliance—a national progressive network of donors that Politico called the “closest thing the left has to the vaunted Koch brothers’ political network”—to donate up to $5.9 million for the New Georgia Project and contribute another $4.35 million for Voter Access Institute, a little-known progressive advocacy group she founded last year. Her funding requests aren’t surprising; one of the Democracy Alliance’s members, Democratic financier George Soros, wrote Abrams’s political action committee, Georgia Next, Inc., a $500,000 check in 2014 to fund her voter registration efforts. But the two requests are ones that, considering the funder’s secretive reputation, raise even more questions about the New Georgia Project, which has been criticized for its lack of transparency and its failure to live up to its expectations.
Abrams intends for her latest iteration of the New Georgia Project to be a constellation of projects scattered throughout the state. Voter registration efforts are centered in six cities, where, according to one memo, she plans to set up field offices with dozens of paid staffers. A series of smaller civic engagement projects are designed to push people to the polls. Her staff hosted a “hack-a-thon” where teams of computer programmers competed over a 48-hour period to create apps to make it easier to vote (#UnlockTheBox), held a five-day training course for applicants participating in a crash course to become campaign operatives (B.L.U.E.), and launched a series of citizen academies designed to demystify public policy at the local level (Advocates for Change Institute). The course even gave ACI graduates their own Apple laptops.
Time will tell whether the 2016 effort will be more successful than the one from last year.