McCamish Pavilion is gearing up to serve as a student staffed voting site this election year. Early voting will be held at the location Oct. 21-23, and will be open on Election Day, Nov. 3, for voters assigned to the precinct.
Samuel Ellis, third-year INTA and current undergraduate SGA Vice President of External Affairs, played a part in ensuring an on-campus polling location would be a reality during this election year after the Student Center’s facilities went offline this summer.
“I came to this realization, the moment we destroyed the student center of, ‘oh god where is our early elections polling place going to be?’ And as soon as I started asking questions about that, I realized there were already incredible allies working in that area” said Ellis.
One of those allies was Eric Reveno, Tech’s assistant men’s basketball coach, who pushed the #AllVoteNoPlay initiative to make election day a day off for student-athletes across the country.
“He’s the reason that we’ve been able to work with the team around the NCAA schedule,” said Ellis. “Five to seven days between early voting, election day, December runoff, January runoff and anything else that might pop up is a really big ask of time commitment from a facility as dedicated as McCamish Pavilion, which is ultimately governed by athletics and NCAA guidelines. Coach Reveno being on top of that was a game changer for us.”
The collaboration to make this is all happen also included other employees within the athletics department, as well as Institute Communications.
“Institute relations are the ones really doing a lot of the groundwork with Fulton County. Rachel Miller, who is our Director of External Engagement and Lynn Durham who is the Vice President of Institute Relations have been doing just incredible actual groundwork in terms of working with the county, meeting with people to make sure that McCamish is up to code for what we’re going to be doing with it,” said Ellis.
Ellis, who has worked previous elections at polling locations in Fulton County served as a student advisor over the process and spearheaded the idea of a student staffed general election location.
“I’m following a model set by Evan Malbrough, he was basically the external affairs officer at Georgia State last year, and he is an incredible activist in the polling community, and in the Atlanta community in general” said Ellis.
Malbrough’s plan stressed the importance of a student staffed polling location for many reasons, including a push for representation of younger voters at the polls.
“It’s important to have student staffers because when you’re a nineteen, twenty-something year old person voting for the first time and you go in and you’re just looking at seventy and eighty year olds working the polls, it doesn’t feel like democracy is for you,” said Ellis. “We also want students, so that you feel safe, you feel comfortable and you’re represented when you go to the polling place.”
Ellis also touched on the importance of the younger generation stepping up this election season to volunteer at the polls due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It’s especially important right now because if you have geriatric coworkers, they’re one of the highest risk groups for COVID death. When I worked the run-off earlier this year, I had a co-worker collapse on the floor and had to be transported to the ER, because her hips gave out,” said Ellis. “
“That’s why we need students, because 16 hours on your feet is a tough job and in the context of COVID-19 it’s not acceptable to be putting such high risk folks at a greater risk. Democracy is a thing worth dying for, but not in this context.”
After months of hard work and advocacy from various members of the Tech community, Tech has not only secured McCamish Pavilion as an on-campus polling location, but it will also be one of the first ever fully student staffed general election polling locations on Nov. 3.
The upcoming 2020 election will be prove to be an important one for not only the country but the state of Georgia as well. Ellis touched on how vital it is for students to participate this year.
“You have to vote. This is the most consequential election of our lives. And that is because, for a very rare time in Georgia history, you’re not just voting for the Presidency, but you’re voting for both of our senate seats as well. Since Senate seats are on a staggered six year term, that doesn’t happen, and there is more at stake this Georgia election than ever before,” said Ellis.
“It’s so important because we have this incredible beautiful democracy, but it’s fragile. And I have seen firsthand how fragile it is when it’s being held up by the backs of 70 year old women working at the poll place.”