As absentee voting deadline looms, students encouraged to vote early and in person

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An absentee ballot drop box in front of The Grand Opera House
An absentee ballot drop box is located in front of The Grand Opera House in downtown Macon.

Early voting is underway in Georgia, and Mercer University students have several opportunities to cast their ballots for the Nov. 3 presidential election. 

Mobilize Mercer, a nonpartisan voting initiative focused on raising voter awareness and participation on the Macon campus, is encouraging students to plan to vote early and in person, said Lauren Shinholster, coordinator of community engagement. 

While the deadline to request an absentee ballot is Oct. 30, “Georgia is at a record number of ballot applications,” Shinholster said. “At this stage, if our students have not requested their ballot, they’re probably running out of time.” 

Early in-person voting is available 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday through Oct. 30 at three locations in Macon-Bibb County: Board of Elections, 2525 Pio Nono Ave.; Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center, 132 Willie Smokie Glover Drive; and Theron Ussery Recreation Center, 815 North Macon Park Drive. 

Additionally, voters may cast ballots on one Saturday — Oct. 24 — from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Mercer students are invited to join the Macon community Oct. 24 for Vote Early Day, a national movement aimed at spreading awareness about early voting options. 

On that day, Mobilize Mercer and the Residence Hall Association will join Austin Advocates and other local community organizations including the People’s Advocacy Group to host an early voting pep rally and caravan to the polls. 

The events will require masks, and social distancing guidelines will be enforced, Shinholster said. 

Vehicles will line up at 11 a.m. at the Martin-Whitley Educational Complex, 2003 Riverside Drive, and proceed to the Elaine H. Lucas Senior Center polling location in Carolyn Crayton Park (formerly Central City Park) where participants may vote. 

The caravan will involve young people throughout Middle Georgia, including students from Mercer, Fort State Valley University and Bibb County public schools, as well as community members, said Austin Rayford, who is an area coordinator for Mercer’s Office of Housing and Residence Life and runs Austin Advocates. 

“It’s important to go ahead and early vote,” Rayford said. “Multiple things can happen on Election Day. Sometimes it rains; sometimes life happens. 

“It’s important to go ahead and take advantage of that opportunity to vote early because you don’t know what will come up in your life that day.”  

The pep rally will take place 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Carolyn Crayton Park and include music, food trucks and information tables. Mobilize Mercer will hold a pledge drive for children to commit to vote in the future, he said. 

“It’s just going to be a day filled with voter engagement and education in the park,” he said. 

In addition, the People’s Advocacy Group is providing free rides to the polls Oct. 24 for anyone who texts RIDE to (478) 242-1116

“A lot of people believe the myth that their vote and voice does not count nor does it matter,” said Sheknita Davis, a Double Bear who founded the People’s Advocacy Group during her second year of seminary at Mercer. “Every person is important and has a significant voice in the election. 

“We are encouraging people to come out to one of three early voting locations and participate in shaping their future.” 

For those who choose to vote absentee, ballots must be returned to the county election office by 7 p.m. Nov. 3. Ballots may be requested online at ballotrequest.sos.ga.gov and then tracked on Georgia’s My Voter Page

Completed ballots may be returned by mail or left at an official drop-off location. In Macon-Bibb County, there are two — the Board of Elections office and in front of The Grand Opera House downtown. 

Jennifer Borage
Jennifer is a digital content specialist at Mercer. She creates and maintains written and multimedia content for primary University web pages. She collaborates with various schools and departments to ensure timely and consistent web page content is maintained. She also examines web data and analytics to drive content creation decisions.