First Person is an interview series that features community members with unique stories to tell. Ahead of Georgia’s midterm elections on November 8, we spoke with three metro Atlanta residents who live or work near low-voter-turnout precincts in Clayton, Fulton, and Gwinnett counties. These are in their own voices.
VOTER: Shayla Drake
We met call center supervisor Shayla Drake in Forest Park during the making of Canopy Atlanta Listens: How Metro Atlanta Votes, where our Community Engagement Team surveyed 66 people from across the five-county-metro. As told to Ada Wood.
I cast my first vote the first chance I had, when I was 18 years old. I even got my second ear piercing to commemorate that day. And I do always remember that day.
Now, I’m 36 years old, and I’ve been a resident of Forest Park for about eight years. I’ve voted in every single presidential election, and since I’ve been living in Forest Park, I’ve engaged on a local level.
But honestly, I don’t feel like my vote really matters. I don’t think it counts.
I vote because it’s important, given the history of my people—Black people—in this country. My vote matters because it pays homage to the people who came before me that fought for my right to be able to vote. So I’m not going to take that for granted.
But does it actually affect the outcome of the election? Literally, the only time I thought it might have made a difference was when Clayton County was on CNN in 2020 as they were waiting for the votes to come in.
But I don’t like to say that to people who may be on the fence about it, because I do want to encourage people to vote.
I’ve felt this way ever since the first time I voted, when the person I voted for—John Kerry—didn’t win. But since I was 18, I’ve learned a lot about the process [and] how electoral votes and districts come into play. I have even less faith in the value of my vote.
COMMUNITY LEADER: Shade’ Yvonne Jones
Shade’ Yvonne Jones is the chairperson of NPU-L, which encompasses Fulton County’s English Avenue and Vine City. As told to Adjoa Danso.
Some candidates present an idea of hope like with Obama’s election and Stacey Abrams’ gubernatorial [candidacy]. I can’t necessarily say that mayoral elections are quite the same. But I’ve seen larger turnouts with those two.
See, I’ve worked precincts—different ones, not mine. I’ve worked in political campaigns ever since I was in my early twenties. I’m familiar with the process, and I see what makes people move. I’ve seen elections where people were hopeful, and then I’ve seen them where the hope was not as strong.
People have been encouraged to participate, and it did not impact their lives significantly where they could see it. A lot of times, things affect your life and you don’t see it. But if you expect people to really push forward in certain ways, then you must impact them so they can feel it. I’m not sure, but I feel like our current mayor may do some things that I’m hopeful will encourage greater voter participation.
You can’t expect people to go running to the polls. They ran to the polls when Obama ran, and then what? They’ve run to the polls in certain elections, and they get so discouraged because they can’t see [the impact]. It doesn’t mean that nothing happened, but they can’t see it.
Our neighborhood needs to be identified as an opportunity for growth. It needs to be seen like that. And until it’s fully seen like that … I don’t know what’s going to happen until people feel protected and considered.
ACTIVIST: Isabel Hidalgo de Caviedes
Isabel Hidalgo de Caviedes is a Gwinnett County resident, activist, and community organizer. As told to Nida Merchant.
[Georgia] is a state where it’s difficult to get daycare and make a livable wage. Latinos in our community are holding two to three jobs just to get by. And some of these voting locations are now further away from some folks in the community.
I feel a combination of anger and fear which, for me, is the energy that I need to do this work. I am knocking on doors. I am canvassing. I am texting. I am rallying. I am participating 24/7 in this process. I collaborate with Latino organizations like GALEO. We have been canvassing in Gwinnett, DeKalb, and in Fulton County—specifically in the area of Sandy Springs—since August.
Registering Latinos to vote is one of the most challenging tasks here in Georgia. It is like [finding] a needle in a haystack. We go through all the houses to find that in a household of 10 people, there will [only] be one 18-year-old son of the family (which is undocumented) who happens to be a citizen of the United States.
It is a very challenging and exciting task. I do get emotional because my Latino community here in Georgia is hard-working and humble. We taught them not to open the doors for ICE back in the Trump era, and now we’re asking them to open their doors and trust us and come out to vote.
Know a metro Atlanta resident with an extraordinary story? Email our editor at Christina@canopyatlanta.org —we’d love to learn more.
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