Although COVID-19 restrictions have hindered most club operations, student political organizations are actively preparing for the upcoming election cycle, seeking to involve as many students in the election as possible.
Young Democrats of Emory President Alex Chanen (21B) said the pandemic has hampered traditional in-person campaign work, such as canvassing and hosting events. In response, the group has completely transitioned their programming online, which increased and encouraged participation from students nationwide.
“I think canvassing is not going to be happening this fall,” Chanen said. “I don’t think I would want someone knocking on my door right now and breathing on me.”
Widespread social media usage presents a valuable opportunity to educate students about voting and the election, he noted. The group is working to host several virtual events with guest speakers but Chanen declined to provide specific names until all details are finalized.
Emory College Republicans President Jasmine Jaffe (22C) said as the election draws closer the club also plans to host several guest speakers, including U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), a candidate for the U.S. Senate running in the special election to complete former Sen. John Hardy Isakson’s (R-Ga.) term, which ends in 2022. Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.), the current incumbent seeking reelection, was appointed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp in January 2020.
Jaffe also emphasized certain positive outcomes caused by public health restrictions, like fewer barriers to attend and participate in events.
“We have had some benefits, at least for the next two events,” she explained. “They are free because they are on Zoom so you don’t have to pay for any transportation costs or travel expenses for them.”
She noted, however, that the club has put the presidential election on the “back burner” because of the divisiveness it causes and instead is focused on encouraging its members to become more vocal members of the community.
“Especially on this campus, mentioning the word Trump turns people off and that’s not what we want to do,” Jaffe said. “We are trying to just bring conservative values and conservative thoughts to campus, especially this liberal one where they don’t seem to be really active.”
Both Young Democrats and College Republicans recently collaborated with College Council on a petition to make Election Day a University-wide holiday.
Assistant Coordinator for the Emory Votes Initiative (EVI) Sarah Zaslaw said EVI plans to educate and encourage students to register to vote. Starting this academic year, EVI has encouraged voting among first-year students through PACE 101 as well.
“We are really reliant on doing everything virtually like everybody else and especially grateful that we had already contracted with Democracy Works to bring the online platform TurboVote to campus,” Zaslaw said. “It might not be the be all and end all, but it really gets a lot of the low hanging fruit in terms of helping students with the steps and getting them registered, and sending them absentee ballots.”
EVI previously planned to host an in-person event on Sept. 22, National Voter Registration Day, but it has since moved online due to safety protocols.
Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Activists (APIDAA) President Stephanie Zhang (22C) said her organization wants to work to encourage Asian American voters to register as well as educate about voter suppression in the Asian American community.
“We are doing a lot of phone banking and text banking to make sure that a lot of Asian immigrants, especially in the Atlanta area, know what their options are with regards to voting by mail,” she said.
Emory Climate Analysis and Solutions Team (ECAST) also aims to train a larger cohort of student activists to educate the community about environmental concerns, said Co-President Jack Miklaucic (23C).
In addition to guest speakers, they hope to encourage students to connect with their local political representatives.
“We are trying to get people involved in the more political aspects of environmental change,” Miklaucic explained.
Miklaucic said ECAST is planning letter-writing sessions to local political representatives, citing wildfires as an issue of significance just days after areas of the West Coast saw bright orange skies and severe air quality warnings.
Whether it be environmental activism, encouraging students to vote, educating people on their opinions or helping students to register, Emory student organizations are working within the University’s COVID-19 guidelines to ensure students are ready for the upcoming election season.