Emory Votes Initiative (EVI) has organized a weekend shuttle for voters who wish to cast a ballot during the early voting period this election. The shuttles run to Agnes Scott College in Decatur, which is the closest early voting site from the Atlanta campus. Students must sign up to ride the shuttles as per University COVID-19 safety guidelines.

EVI has organized shuttles for student voters in the past, such as for the 2018 midterm elections, and are running shuttles again this year so that students who don’t have access to their own transportation can still have access to in-person early voting. The weekend shuttles run every 40 minutes starting at noon and ending at 4:40 p.m. and are for DeKalb County voters only.

Early voters should also bring an ID such as a U.S. passport or a driver’s license to the polling station. The early voting period in Georgia began on Oct. 12.

Hallie Dowling-Huppert, assistant director of civic and community engagement in Campus Life, said that the shuttles are only available during the early voting period, as there are polling places near Emory’s campus for Election Day.

“The reason we are doing this for early voting is because the polling place for Election Day is walkable from campus,” Dowling-Huppert said.“But the closest early voting place is Agnes Scott, which is not walkable.” 

The closest polling place on Election Day is Emory Presbyterian Church, which is a 17-minute walk from the Emory Student Center. Agnes Scott College, the closest early voting polling place, is over an hour’s walk from the Emory Student Center.

The shuttles only operate on weekends, as other means of public transportation are available to students on weekdays, Dowling-Huppert said.

“Commuter shuttles, CCTMA and South Dekalb, only run during the week. So we saw a gap, and we wanted to make sure that early voting was accessible for everyone who needed it,” Dowling-Huppert said, adding that students had less classes and conflicts on the weekends.

Regarding COVID-19 safety, Dowling-Huppert said that the social distancing and COVID rules already set up by the University on buses made creating the shuttle process much easier. No more than 13 people are allowed to board a shuttle in a single time slot. 

An early voting shuttle in 2018./Aashna Sahni, Contributing

Decatur has its own mask mandate that was recently extended until Nov. 16, with Dowling-Huppert saying that she saw most people at the polling location adhering to the protocols. 

“Everyone was wearing masks, it was super safe and the poll workers were reminding folks to wear their masks properly, such as wearing it over their nose,” she said.

Dowling-Huppert spoke of the importance of early voting and its role in lowering the stress placed on polling places for Election Day.

Voting lines on Nov. 3 will be much longer and much more stressful for the poll workers if voters do not cast their ballot early, and with the pandemic, much harder to properly follow COVID-19 social distancing.

A few students also commented on their experience using the EVI shuttles to early vote.

“I’ve read articles describing long lines in Georgia, but the polling station at Agnes Scott College was super efficient,” Jackson Eckel (24C) said. “The 50-ish person line only took about 20 minutes to get through.”

Jaqueline Velasco-Zarate (22C) said the shuttles eased her voting experience and did not experience long wait times this past weekend. 

“I didn’t have to worry about parking or finding the correct entrance; the bus dropped me off right at the front door,” Velasco-Zarate said. “I just had to fill out a paper and they had to verify my identity, and then I got to vote. … Overall I would say I had a really good early voting experience.”

EVI shuttles were available this weekend on Vote Early Day, which was this Saturday, Oct. 24 and on Sunday, Oct. 25 to go to Agnes Scott College.