But embracing long odds is a natural outcome for a campaign that has cloaked itself in the language of a moral majority, and has railed against voter suppression and Kemp’s election tactics as the only factors that could stop its momentum. “When you chose me as your Democratic nominee, I made you a vow,” Abrams told her supporters Tuesday night. “In our Georgia, no one is unseen, no one is unheard, and no one is uninspired.” Those words encapsulated a bold campaign strategy from the candidate attempting to be the first black woman governor in America’s history. Instead of sprinting to the middle in an attempt to win over just enough white moderates to keep it interesting, she predicated her strategy on embracing an openly liberal platform, keeping her identity front and center, and betting on so-called unlikely voters: low-propensity voters who are eligible but don’t vote, or haven’t in multiple elections.
Tuesday highlighted the inherent risks to that strategy. Low-propensity voters are those who tend to be most affected by long lines and problems with election infrastructure, and the most likely people to have to file provisional ballots. They lead inherently less-stable lives than reliable voters, and are difficult to poll and target. They include people such as the organizers I met on the Westside of Atlanta, many of whom were black men who’d served time in prison. “I served 15 years in federal prison, and when I came out I couldn’t get a job,” said Ricky Brown, who launched an unsuccessful bid for city council last year and runs a job-placement firm that specializes in getting jobs for people with felonies. “We tell people to vote the Westside way, voting for people that are gonna be for us.” But, as Brown told me, that effort is difficult, especially since people with felonies often erroneously believe that they will never regain the right to vote, and are never contacted by party organizing machines.
Read: The ghosts of the 1960s haunt the Georgia governor’s race
Even the reliable voters among the Abrams coalition faced the tough realities of voting in Georgia. In the predominantly African American neighborhood of Peoplestown, just south of downtown Atlanta, I spent time at the Barack & Michelle Obama Academy, where scores of mostly elderly black voters shuffled in and out. Two of the voting machines appeared not to work, and polling volunteers struggled with the protocol for processing people with disabilities. One of the voters, a 79-year-old woman who said her name was Lucille, told me that she always voted, and that this time she was voting for Abrams. “I voted for Obama,” she told me, “and if Stacey wins, we gonna celebrate.” But she had no car, and without a ride from a campaign volunteer, she would not have been able to cast a ballot at all.