On Sunday, October 26, Chatham County voters had the opportunity to cast a ballot for the first time in a “Souls to the Polls” event which will impact who will be Georgia’s next governor, U.S. Senator and also southeast Georgia’s U.S. representative in Congress. Voters being able to cast a ballot on Sunday was made possible when Chatham County’s Board of Registrars unanimously approved Sunday voting at a September 24 meeting.
The higher turnout will impact many races and one example is Georgia’s First Congressional District contest which features Democrat Brian Reese and state senator Buddy Carter who are both from Chatham County.
Chatham-Savannah’s population by itself represents approximately half of the seventeen county district and for Reese he is looking to become the first Democrat in nearly three decades to win a seat in Congress. Plus, a win would be historic because Reese would be the first African-American ever to represent southeast Georgia in Congress.
Majority-minority cities such as Folkston, Brunswick, Darien, Hinesville, Waycross and other coastal cities such as Kingsland and St. Marys will play an important role in whether a Democrat will be representing southeast Georgia for the first time in decades.
One of the frequent questions that Reese has been asked is his position on the Affordable Care Act:
…”I believe that access to quality, affordable healthcare is a basic human right. It is a right that should not be hindered by partisan bickering. Yes, I support the Affordable Care Act. It has helped insure 20 million of our fellow Americans. States that expanded Medicaid ( unfortunately Georgia did not) have seen dramatic decreases in premiums and increases in coverage. A consequence of Georgia not expanding Medicaid, and setting up a State Health exchange has been a diminished number of Georgians with coverage. On the economic side, not expanding Medicaid has caused 4 hospitals to date to close, mostly in rural areas (the only source of medical care), displacing workers and putting the nearby residents in even greater peril…”
Another question is about his stance on equal pay for equal work.
…”Yes, gender equality is a moral right, a financial right, a Civil right. We must correct this disparity in order to prosper economically. I will support initiatives that promote fairness in pay such as the Paycheck Fairness act, a bill that updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. This act will make it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform equal work…”
A campaign slogan from the Reese campaign states “better starts here”. Even though this a mid-term election, the progressive Democrat has been actively going through all parts of the district stressing the importance of issues such as health care and education that impact everyday people in rural and urban areas. Reese’s journey started in February 2014 with his intent to run for Congress. Subsequently, he qualified for the Democratic primary and was able to win a July runoff.
The First Congressional District has been dubbed a conservative district, but Reese’s efforts to find common ground with voters and encourage base voters that voting matters all the time, not just in presidential elections. Reese, a Savannah native, has made the effort to outreach to all counties. One example is Liberty County.
In 2012, presidential turnout in Liberty was only sixty percent which was well below the state average– 72 percent. And in 2010, the voter participation was hoovering around 40 percent. Liberty is a traditionally blue county, but the potential is there to win Liberty by larger margins.
One of Reese’s biggest challenges is to turn Chatham and Liberty counties more ‘blue’. In past years, lower turnout in predominately Democratic precincts in Chatham had provided conservatives an easier pathway to win in congressional elections. In 2012, President Barack Obama won Chatham with nearly 57 percent of the vote, However, among the eighty Chatham precincts, the lowest participation rates had come from majority Democratic, majority black precincts.
For Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter, and Brian Reese to win in 2014, a bigger than average or a presidential turnout will be needed in counties such as Chatham, Liberty, Glynn, Ware, McIntosh and Camden counties.
Sunday voting was seen as a success despite being one day during the early voting period, but moving forward Colin McRae told the Savannah Morning News the following:
“We have a commitment to make the polls accessible to voters as best as we can,” McRae said. “We’re not wedded to the idea of Sunday voting. We’re going to give it a try and afterword we’ll assess how it went.”