Georgia’s gubernatorial race exposes risks of voting absentee, demonstrates importance of youth political engagement

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MAGGIE MORE / THE FLAT HAT

Monday, Nov. 5, I drove back to my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, woke up early Tuesday morning, went to my polling place, voted and drove all the way back to the College of William and Mary before my first class of the day.

My decision to not vote absentee was influenced by an article I read about Georgia’s government discarding a high number of absentee ballots because of “mismatched” signatures. I am privileged to attend a school an hour away from my hometown, which enables me to return and vote in person.

Yet, for many of my fellow college students, voting absentee is their only option in order to participate in this democratic process.

During election night, it was revealed that the Republican gubernatorial candidate and Georgia’s Secretary of State Brian Kemp held 50.33 percent of the vote, while the opposing Democrat Stacey Abrams held 48.72 percent of the vote. In response, Abrams refused to concede to Kemp, citing the fact that a large majority of absentee ballots had yet to be counted as well as reports that upwards of 53,000 voters were turned away at the polls by Kemp’s office.

If these votes are counted, Georgia could enter a runoff election that will take place in December. A higher number of college students voted absentee in the 2018 midterm elections in comparison to the 2014 midterms. According to TargetSmart, a Democratic political data services firm, Georgia saw a 362 percent increase in youth early votes in this year’s election.

“We are investigating multiple cases from students who believe they timely and properly submitted their absentee ballots but when they checked the Secretary of State’s website, it appears those ballots have not yet been accepted,” Abrams’ team said in a press release.

This issue raises concerns about the validity of the United States’ democratic process of voting. If absentee ballots are being overlooked, then a large section of the electorate is as well. Because the youth vote has been historically minimal, issues concerning young people have continually been pushed to the side. However, this election’s increase of youth voters gives me hope that more of my generation will participate in elections. Thus, issues concerning a large portion of young people will be heard in Congress and among those elected in each state.

In a Pew Research Center study, it was found that a majority of youth voters are liberal and more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate. The Center also found in a study that millennials are beginning to rival the baby boomer generation in the electorate, giving the youth vote more importance.

Georgia’s elections may demonstrate how this increasingly Democratic youth vote can be suppressed. Furthermore, Kemp’s office controlled the organization of the election despite Kemp being a candidate, which raises concerns about the credibility of the election.

When votes are not counted, voices are suppressed and the stability of democracy is called into question. For me, I will continue to return home each election to ensure my voice is properly considered. But what about my college friends who are not as fortunate? What about my friends who must vote absentee? What will happen to their voices?

Email Emma Ford at erford@email.wm.edu.