Stacey Abrams says fighting voter suppression changed "the trajectory of the nation"

Stacey Abrams praised for efforts in Georgia
Stacey Abrams praised for efforts in Georgia 05:52

In the recent election, a record of nearly 5 million Georgians voted, nearly 1 million more than four years ago. As of Tuesday morning, President-elect Joe Biden was leading President Trump in the traditionally red state by more than 12,000 votes.

Many are crediting the efforts of one woman – the state's former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams. Much of America met her last year, giving the Democratic response to Mr. Trump's State of the Union speech, but it was last week when Abrams really made her mark.

Abrams and the New Georgia Project helped register 800,000 new Georgia voters, mostly in communities of color.

"We knocked on doors in pockets of communities that had never been touched. And we kept coming back," Abrams told CBS News national correspondent Mark Strassmann. "Is there anyone else in your family who needs to register? What about your neighbors?"

Abrams, now 46, graduated from Spelman College and Yale Law School. She became a state representative and eventually Georgia's house minority leader.  

But her passion since she was 17 has been fighting voter suppression.

"Politicians believe their way to preserve their power is to impede the ability of voters to be heard. And typically they target people of color, young people, and they target the poor," Abrams said.

In 2018, Abrams ran for governor in Georgia. Barack Obama endorsed her. Oprah Winfrey campaigned for her.  

But the year before, the Republican-run state slashed nearly 670,000 voters from its rolls. Nearly 70% of those voters were Black.

The secretary of state who was overseeing the purge was Republican Brian Kemp, who was Abrams' opponent in the governor's race.

She lost by 55,000 votes.    

Abrams never conceded the race. 

"I believe it was stolen from the voters," she said. "I just said it can't happen again. And that has been my mission for the last two years."

After that loss, Abrams founded another group: Fair Fight. In this recent election, it worked to blunt voter suppression in 20 states. 

"We were in Michigan. We were in Wisconsin. We were in North Carolina. We were in Pennsylvania. Voter suppression happens anywhere," Abrams said. "We changed not only the trajectory of Georgia, we changed the trajectory of the nation. Because our combined power show that progress is not only possible, it is inevitable."

Abrams' next challenge: the Super Bowl of runoffs in January. Georgia will elect both its U.S. senators. Control of the Senate itself hangs in the balance. 

Abrams is hoping the surge of new Georgia voters would be enough to elect two Democrats: Jon Ossoff, who is challenging incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue, and Reverend Raphael Warnock, who is running against incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. While voters typically do not turn out in the same numbers they would for a general election, Abrams and her team believe that now that they've proved to people that their vote can make a difference, it will be much easier to get them to vote again.

"People will do almost anything when they know success is likely," Abrams said. "It is the actual thing that can change the future. And I believe they'll show up."