In an effort to drive Emory students to cast their vote early and empower them with education on the importance of voting, student advocacy organizations hosted a “Party to the Polls” event on Oct. 28. Around 30 students were greeted at Asbury Circle by a lively DJ playing upbeat pop music, free food from the Island Cafe food truck and student volunteers from a variety of campus organizations, offering free T-shirts and voter education and motivating students to join the march to the polls.
Fair Fight U, NAACP, Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Activists (APIDAA) and Emory Votes Initiative (EVI) all collaborated to host this event.
President of Emory Fair Fight U, Carly Colen (23C) actively approached Emory students before the march took off to recruit more voters. This event was at the heart of the club’s mission which Colen said is to educate students about voting and promote civil engagement at Emory.
In planning the event, Colen said Fair Fight U’s goal was to make voting “a celebratory experience.”
“We wanted to make sure that people turned out to vote so we joined together to host this event to encourage people to vote together,” Colen said. “It’s important for everyone to vote, especially young people, because our vote is carrying our voice.”
Chief of Staff of Emory APIDAA, Anhhuy Do (24C), echoed the importance of being civically engaged.
“It’s important to vote because it’s the first step in realizing systemic political change to empower and benefit our communities,” Do said.
Around 2:30 p.m., the music died down, and a brief rally kickstarted the march to the polls. Student organization leaders and faculty and staff passionately pumped up the crowd.
Leading the rally was Hannah Joy Gebresilassie, EVI’s program coordinator.
“We realize how convenient it is and how much more efficient it is to vote early, so we’re encouraging people, not just on this campus, but all across the country to do the same,” Gebresilassie said.
Students then lined up and began their journey to the polling site at Emory Point. The warm, but breezy weather on Friday was the perfect setting for this brief 20-minute walk. On the journey over, first-time voters and returning voters alike engaged in respectful political discussions. The empowered group waved posters featuring signs reading “Civic Engagement Counts” and “Vote Early” and “Need to Know More About the Ballot?” along with QR codes leading to a nonpartisan ballot breakdown, written by EVI. The voters spiritedly chanted the call and response cheer, “Let’s go!” “vote!” They also stopped many passersby, respectfully reminding them to vote.
The group was unified in their mission to perform their civic duty and spread awareness of the importance of voting and the grave issue of voter suppression.
Among the pack was Grey Robicheaux (23PH), who was driven to the polls by his desire to make political change.
“It’s important to vote because legislation and politics at the end of the day are the biggest ways to change things permanently,” Robicheaux said.
Many eager first-time voters came out to this event. Among them was Pranay Mamileti (26C), communications chair of Fair Fight U Emory, who was thrilled to be voting for the first time “in an election that actually matters.”
“The issues on the ballot this year are super important, and with the candidates in Georgia specifically, they have very different takes on issues like abortion, voting rights and things that really matter to me,” Mamileti said. “Beyond that, Georgia is such a contested state and so each individual vote counts a lot, so getting first-time voters like myself to turn out will be crucial in deciding this election.”
Mamileti was extremely politically active throughout high school, and is overjoyed to now be able to actually vote, and help enact the political change he has been so adamantly advocating for.
Jane Arons (25C), another first-time voter, emphasized the importance of research in order to make an informed decision at the ballot box.
“I’m very excited to share my voice,” Arons said. “People our age often don’t do enough research and often just vote for whatever party they think that they’re aligned with. I looked up each candidate’s profile and saw their website, what they’d want to change and what their platform was.”
Arons’ passion shone through as she described her preparation for this momentous occasion.
Another student voter, Mackenzie Williams (25C) highlighted how important it is for those in marginalized communities to vote.
“Because there is such a strong and stringent history of voter suppression, I think it’s very crucial that people of college age, youth voters go out and express their political opinions,” Williams said. “You know, show the entire world that they have the credibility and the information to cast an informed vote and combat that long history of suppression. Especially if you’re a student or young person who is BIPOC or identifies as LGBTQ, those suppressions are a lot stronger for them.”
NAACP Emory is especially passionate about combating this unjust voter suppression towards the BIPOC community. The organization’s Assistant Secretary, Aay-Janae Taylor (25C), also stressed the importance of mobilizing and unifying young voters.
“If we want change to happen, the power is in numbers, so the fact that we’re out here walking to the polls with a plethora of students is a step towards action and change, which is important for now, and for the future, for our children and our grandchildren,” Taylor said.
The leaders of the event waited outside for the voters while they entered the polling site and cheered enthusiastically as each voter emerged repping their glossy, new “I’m a Georgia Voter––I secured my vote” sticker.