Georgia primaries pose concerns for young voters

People line up at a voting station as they prepare to cast their votes. Voter disenfranchisement and the current candidate options presented have discouraged many young voters from voting. // Photo courtesy of John McCosh Georgia Recorder

Editor’s Note: The election results quoted in this article are accurate up until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, March 13. 

The long-awaited Georgia primaries were held on Tuesday, March 12. Serving as a crucial swing-state in the upcoming 2024 general election, the Georgia primaries set the stage for the front-runners of each political party. As of 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 13, according to a poll reported by the Washington Post, former President Donald Trump led the Republican primary results with an estimated 84.5%, with former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley following behind with 13.2% and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis coming in at 1.3%. On the other side of the aisle, President Joe Biden led the Democratic primary results with 95.2%, with Marianne Williamson at 3.0% and U.S. Representative from Minnesota Dean Phillips at 1.8%. With these results, Trump and Biden are regarded as the presumptive nominees for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party, respectively. 

With Tech situated in Midtown Atlanta, the Georgia primaries and the upcoming national election directly impacts the Institute’s constituency, primarily consisting of students. For many students, topics such as student loan debt, foreign policy, reproductive justice and sustainability are important issues on the ballot this upcoming election cycle. However, the Institute’s diverse student body consists of a wide range of backgrounds, personal beliefs, experiences and more, making it difficult to chart student opinion on the presidential candidates as a homogeneous monolith. 

For students involved in politically affiliated organizations on campus, it is important to recognize the work done by the incumbents, whilst also acknowledging areas of improvement. 

As such, Shruthi Mohana Sundaram (fourth-year BA) spoke in a representative capacity for College Democrats of Georgia Tech (CDGT) and said, “CDGT supports Joe Biden in the upcoming presidential election. While we absolutely take the time to criticize his shortcomings, we also acknowledge the tremendous progress he has brought to this nation in his term, including creating millions of jobs, implementing the most aggressive climate action agenda in history, championing LGBTQ rights and nominating Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. By voting and supporting Biden, CDGT believes that we will be able to provide all Americans with a truly free life, and ensure that we make even more progress in the years to come.”

However, for some, Biden’s recent foreign policy decisions have created mistrust of both Biden and the Democratic Party for students directly tied to the impacted communities. Many feel directly let down by Biden, after Biden’s 2020 presidential bid was secured by the high voter turnout of American Muslims in crucial states like Michigan. 

Iman Emdad (fourth-year PUBP) said, “As a Muslim, I think there are a lot of things at play right now. For one, we should be deeply cautious about former President Trump’s threat to democracy — a structure fundamental to the American way of life. But we should also be angry when the person we voted for repeatedly seems to sacrifice some of its politically active, marginalized communities in favor of war and border policies that resemble core Republican ground. There’s a lot of frustration right now that people are thinking of articulating in the form of not voting for Biden in the presidential election.”

Emdad continued to say, “As the party solidifies Biden as their pick for president, I think voting uncommitted is a clear and important way to show the Democratic Party that Muslims do vote, and they are capable of swinging the election, especially with the margins so tight in states like Michigan and Georgia. Gaza is not a fringe issue that American Muslims are sweeping under the rug. From a religious standpoint, we believe that the struggles of part of the ummah (global Muslim community) affect the whole. And that’s not what’s clicking for many establishment Democrats, is that we care and have cared for quite some time about the constant, low level ‘conflict’ in the Middle East. It really doesn’t have to be this way.” 

Conversely, there are some students who feel that if the choice came down between Trump and Biden, they would garner their support towards Trump. 

Grayson Kapiloff (fourth-year PHYS and AE) said, “While I find some of Trump’s economic policies acceptable, he lacks in many other areas including granting too much power to the federal government on several issues. Ultimately, however, I am picking this candidate not because I am a supporter of him but because as a country we have forced ourselves into a corner where we have simply become complacent with the idea of ‘picking between the lesser of two evils’ and think this an acceptable approach.”

Kapiloff expressed his concerns regarding the dangers of political parties and how they limit the responsibilities of citizens in taking ownership of the country’s leadership, essentially watering down power held by the people in elections. He mentioned his hope to see improvements in the electoral college, with improved systems void of political parties and instead instituting voting systems consisting of ranked choice voting, along with term limits. Finally, Kapiloff expressed his disappointment in the candidate choices across both parties. 

“The flaws in all of the candidates are to no end. However, specifically with many of the other candidates, their guiding principles only lie in their back pockets. I am not voting for someone to get into office to only increase their power and their bank account. It is quite disheartening to look at the historical accounts of candidates promising better things to their unwitting constituents, as well-meaning as they may be, only to use those promises becomes lies to get to the top of the political system and leave with a much higher net worth at the expense of the taxpayers. Those who seem to be willing to do the worst to get to the most elevated positions are the ones who get there,” said Kapiloff. 

Furthermore, some Tech students volunteered their time and services to help work the election polls on the day of the Georgia primary elections. With first-hand experiences of the process, they offered a unique insight into overall voter sentiment and their concerns regarding the upcoming general election. 

A student volunteer at the polls, Adaiba Nwasike, fourth-year PUBP, said, “This is now my fourth or fifth election, and I initially signed up because I wanted to be behind the scenes of Election Day, especially after the mistrust developed from the 2020 election in our processes. The one thing I have learned from working the polls is that there are so many areas of misinformation and miseducation when it comes to voting that voter support is definitely the only plausible solution rather than this recent move towards voter suppression. An example is that so many people show up at the wrong precinct because the district lines have been redrawn and they weren’t made aware. Some couples live in the same house but will still be assigned to different precincts. Also many people show up not realizing that you can’t vote at any location. All in all I think voting often feels like a privileged experience rather than the right it’s supposed to be and I wish people had the knowledge to feel empowered to go to the polls.” 

Talking about voter disenfranchisement, Nwasike continued, “I know personally I’m far from eager to participate in the same vote I participated in as an 18 year old first time voter. It’s hard to ignore what the implications of voting means. On one hand a vote for Trump would mean a potential regression in my own personal civil liberties. On the other hand a vote for Biden means being complacent in the war crimes they are committing in Palestine. I genuinely don’t think I’ll vote in the next presidential race if the Democratic National Committee (DNC) doesn’t produce another candidate. Nobody is happy with Biden right now, and everybody keeps telling me not voting is a vote for Trump, but the DNC’s refusal to invest in a fresh voice is them committing to a Trump presidency.” 

Nwasike emphasized the need for a new candidate endorsed by the DNC. She mentioned that at the precinct she was helping out at, voters were making use of blank votes, since voting uncommitted isn’t allowed in Georgia. Of the 59 voters at the precinct she was at, 17 issued a blank vote, which was a number calculated by subtracting the total voters for Republican and Democratic candidates. 

“That’s nearly 30% of voters [at my precinct] so unhappy with our choices, they took time out of their day to issue a warning message. I think that’s incredibly powerful, and shows the wide range of choices that citizens who are dissatisfied, unhappy and angry have to ensure that their government starts to work for
them,” Nwasike said.