On Nov. 6, Georgia became the epicenter of America’s complicated political landscape, voting narrowly to elevate now President-elect Joe Biden and triggering two runoff races that will determine the balance of the Senate. Georgia now holds the key to whether Biden gets to ride in the fast lane with his agenda, or be stuck on the side of the road.
The state’s fast rise to political relevance can be explained by two forces: increased voter turnout and changing demographics. Atlanta’s suburbs have become international hubs with growing numbers of immigrants and more and more engaged first-time voters. Students in Gwinnett County Public Schools speak over 100 different languages—their families were bound to show up at the polls sooner or later.
In a new short film for TIME, we visited Norcross, the town in Gwinnett that became majority minority within the past decade. We watched an Asian American first-time Democratic politician canvassing, met a Black American teacher who voted for Trump, and visited Alejandro Villasana’s Christos Community Church, an evangelical Presbyterian congregation where services are conducted in English and Spanish.
Demographic data in fast-changing places like Norcross—which can be measured, tallied and visualized—only tells a portion of the story. Behind the statistics are individual people with complex, and often conflicting, beliefs. This short film captures the nuance and thoughtfulness of people with divergent opinions who live in concert at the community level. They are navigating the divisiveness of the moment by finding their true political voices, even if that means breaking ranks with their “tribes.”
During the 2020 presidential election, Latino voter turnout in Georgia increased by 72% and Asian American Pacific Islander (A.A.P.I.) turnout increased by 91%. Now, the Senate runoffs are already breaking records for early voting. This electoral cliffhanger promises to be dramatic up until the last ballot is cast. Whatever the outcome, the reality of voters lives on the ground is still a transformational work-in-progress.
From his pulpit, Villasana urged his congregation to celebrate the outcome of the presidential election, no matter who wins, and to support democracy above all else. “Before being a Republican,” he said, “I am a believer in the system.”
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