editorial board

As millions of Americans head to the polls today, we at the Wheel hope that Emory students too will exercise their rights to vote – in Georgia.

Emory students can register to vote in Georgia even if they are from a different state. Students from outside the state usually spend more time in Georgia during a four-year term than their home states, and Emory students should be aware of both how their votes in local and state-wide elections can affect Emory, their daily lives in Georgia and the political makeup of the state.

While Georgia may have a reputation as a red-blooded conservative state, its demographics have shifted massively – and quickly – in recent years. With larger influxes of ethnic minorities and other group that tend to vote Democratic, Georgia has caught national attention for being “purple,” meaning that both conservative and liberal candidates have chances of success.

At Emory, we may see our time in Atlanta and Georgia as temporary and transitory. However, there is real potential for Emory students’ votes to matter and impact the community around them, whether they stay in that community for one year or 10 years. While we may live in the “Emory Bubble,” we are still members of an Atlanta and Georgia community and should recognize our role in a larger network.

Many students on Emory’s campus have significantly mobilized to assist in various political campaigns, especially for those of gubernatorial Democratic candidate Jason Carter and U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn. The political engagement of these students serves as a stark contrast to the apathy toward local politics present in other parts of the student body. We applaud those students who have acted on their civic interests, especially on those students who have attempted to increase awareness of voting registration in Georgia.

We encourage our fellow Emory students to consider participating in the local and state elections here in DeKalb County. Relevant issues with immediate, pragmatic impact are regularly on the ballot, from legalizing Sunday sales of alcohol in some counties to improving infrastructure that would directly benefit Emory. In 2012, a MARTA line to Emory was proposed in the T-SPLOST transportation referendum, but the initiative failed. Since public transit options to Emory are limited, this would be a significant issue to many Emory students. Today, Druid Hills, where many Emory students reside, is considering cityhood options and annexation by the City of Atlanta through surveys, and a referendum is likely to follow. These are issues that many students may want to participate in, but students and the University should engage with and educate themselves about local politics more.

Emory University should work to increase awareness among the student body of opportunities to exercise their right to vote. Emory University’s mission statement is “to create, preserve, teach and apply knowledge in the service of humanity.” Cultivating a sense of civic duty in Emory’s student body should be a top priority, for it helps actualize all of these goals. State and national governments should act to make Election Day a national holiday because not doing so creates an opportunity cost that may lessen voting turnout and leads to a disproportional impact on lower-income individuals and those who may not easily reach a voting location. While this national holiday may not come to fruition, we encourage private universities like Emory to consider ways to lessen the opportunity costs or other burdens of voting for students and other Emory community members. The University has already taken steps to do so by providing shuttles to a voting location today for already registered voters.

It is both our right and responsibility to get informed about current candidates and issues. We have the power to make a positive impact on our community, and even if your vote lies in the minority, your vote functions as a symbolic gesture to our elected leaders. Every voice must be heard, even when it is not the most powerful. Even if you do not vote today, we encourage you to research and explore the opportunities afforded you as a citizen and to vote in future elections.

The above staff editorial represents the majority opinion of the Wheel’s editorial board.