VOTE 20

Late Rep. John Lewis Celebrated Online As Georgia Voters Cement His Legacy

As Georgia continues to count ballots, many online are remembering Lewis’ legacy and tenure, as the district he once represented helped narrowly tilt the state’s scales in Joe Biden’s favor.

John Lewis (D-GA) is photographed in his offices in the Canon House office building on March 17, 2009 in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images
John Lewis (D-GA) is photographed in his offices in the Canon House office building on March 17, 2009 in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images

Many people are remembering late Georgia Rep. John Lewis, a lifelong civil rights activist whose former district has helped tip Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden to narrowly lead the state. 

As of Friday afternoon, Biden gained 1,500 more votes in Georgia than President Trump, according to the Associated Press. Election officials in Clayton County, who worked overnight, are being credited for counting the initial ballots that gave Biden a razor-thin lead. 

Georgia’s Secretary of State said Friday that the state will likely recount votes in the presidential election “with a margin that small.” If he wins Georgia, Biden would be the first Democrat to win the state since former President Bill Clinton in 1992.

Clayton County, an Atlanta suburb of about 300,000 people, is part of Georgia's 5th Congressional District, which Lewis represented for decades. As Georgia — and other key swing states including Pennsylvania — continue to count votes, many online are remembering Lewis’ legacy and tenure.

Lewis, who died on July 17 at 80 years old, helped advance the civil rights movement by organizing lunch counter sit-ins, participating in the Freedom Rides, and helping to lead the march for voting rights across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965.

Lewis, recognized as the “conscience of the Congress,” advocated for voting rights throughout his life, up until his final years. In 2019, he championed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would restore certain protections of the 1965 Voting Rights Act designed to combat racial discrimination. In 2013, the Supreme Court invalidated a crucial part of the original act in a controversial decision.

Though the House of Representatives passed the Voting Rights Advancement Act, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose stated agenda is obstructing Democratic legislation, has refused to bring it up for a vote — even though Democrats in the House and the Senate have called for its passage to honor Lewis.

Democratic state Senator Nikema Williams recently became the presumed representative-elect for Georgia's 5th Congressional District, and will fill the seat left by Lewis.

“Congressman Lewis laid a blueprint for us to always stand up for what is fair, just, and right, and I plan to do just that when I get to Congress,” Williams told NowThis during a Wednesday interview.

Stacey Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and fierce voting rights advocate, is also being recognized for her work to reduce voter suppression in Georgia that disproportionately affects people of color, as Black voters reportedly turned out in historic numbers this year.