Muslims Prove Important Swing Electorate in Georgia
By Hazem Kira
Apparently, Nov 4th wasn’t the last stop for American Muslims this election season. Two weeks prior to the Dec 2 Senatorial runoff elections in Georgia, leaders and activists worked to rally community members in a series of "get out the vote" events to get out large numbers to the polls.
Arguably, a successful swing vote by Muslim Georgians has a ripple affect well beyond the state lines of Georgia. That is why Muslim leaders pushed hard for the stated goal of twice the state average for runoff elections, which according to the Georgia Secretary of State hovers around 30 to 35 percent.
“Muslims constitute four to six percent of the total voter turnout, if 70 percent of the eligible Muslim electorate shows up to the polling stations,” says Dr. Agha Saeed, chair of a prominent umbrella organization, the American Muslim Taskforce (AMT).
According to a post-Nov 4 election survey commissioned by the AMT, and conducted by Genesis Research Associates, 95% of eligible Muslim Americans — both nationally and in states like Georgia — voted in the general elections. This is the highest voter turnout among all socio-religious communities.
A unified four percent vote in Georgia is a decisive factor in such a close race where recent polls show the Republican candidate Saxby Chambliss with a narrow 4-point lead over Democratic nominee Jim Martin.
It is believed that the massive turnout by Muslims and other minorities in Georgia, during the general elections, helped move the once strong republican state, which gave George W. Bush in 2004 a lead of just over 15 percent, towards a relatively narrow lead of only 5.2 percent for John McCain.
"Georgia Muslims, who tend to have a Republican streak, have been moving towards the Democratic Party after sensing hostility by many Republican leaders," says Chris Burke of Georgia's Council on American Islamic Relations.
Many Muslims strongly oppose Chambliss after his infamous remarks he made immediately after September 11th that Georgia ought to "arrest every Muslim that crosses the state line."
“Every Muslim I’ve spoken to knows of this statement and is intent on voting for his Democratic opponent,” says political activists and Georgia native Saeed Raees.
Such comments by such prominent Georgia Republicans remind some Atlanta Muslims, most of which are African American, of Georgia’s pro-segregation stance during the 1960’s civil rights movement. "We need to move forward, not backwards," says Bilal Asif.
"Regardless of the outcome of Georgia's election," says Salim Akhtar, an AMT national coordinator who was on the ground galvanizing the state’s Muslim voters prior to the
election, “the vote demonstrates the prowess of American Muslims, and how they have defied all odds by empowering themselves.”