For over a decade GBAO has conducted innovative research to help advocates of criminal justice reform understand public opinion, craft effective messages, and win campaigns. For decades, Democrats and Republicans communicated messages about being “tough on crime” and rarely about being smart on crime. District Attorney races were often about which candidate had locked up, or promised to lock up, the most criminals. This rhetoric led to policies like mandatory minimum sentences and three strikes laws, the results of which have been catastrophic. Mass incarceration filled our prisons with disproportionately Black and Brown men and boys, including non-violent offenders. Children have grown up without parents, while teenagers have grown up in the criminal justice system.
At the beginning of 2020, it seemed unlikely that Georgia would be the linchpin to the Democrats’ success in turning the U.S. Senate blue. Incumbent Senator Kelly Loeffler, who had been appointed by the state’s Republican Governor to fill the seat of retiring Senator Johnny Isakson, was running to hold the seat for the final two years of his term. Georgians had not elected a Democrat to the U.S. Senate for two decades and no southern state had ever elected a Black Democrat to the Senate. By focusing on increasing turnout among critical blocs of the electorate, running multiple turnout projections with each poll, and highlighting the historic nature of Reverend Raphael Warnock’s candidacy and this special election, GBAO helped prepare the Warnock campaign for a number of different Election-Day scenarios, including the record-breaking turnout that led to both Ossoff and Warnock prevailing and handing control of the Senate to the Democrats.