The university was unable to find a suitable location to host early voting on campus, according to an announcement made on Wednesday by non-partisan voter registration group UGAVotes. The group had hoped that the in-person voting could take place in the university’s large basketball arena to avoid long lines and overcrowded conditions, but the university did not believe it had the resources to clean up the Colosseum at night, according to Marshall Berton, a junior executive director of UGAVotes.
“From the students’ point of view, it is really disappointing to see the UGA prioritize football games, and how much time and hard work they have worked to implement them and come to a good point where all the world is comfortable, ”said Juliet Eden, a senior and communications director of Fair Fight UGA, a division of the voting rights group founded by former Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. “It’s hard not to see them fighting so hard to provide a safe environment for early voting on campus. “
The school’s website said the Sanford Stadium, which can seat more than 90,000 people, will operate at around 20-25% capacity for football matches. And the Athens Banner-Herald reported in August that the school’s sports department had assured its boosters that it would devote significant resources to measures such as more coronavirus testing and improved disinfection procedures at the approach of the fall season.
In-person voting took place on the UGA campus for the 2016 presidential election and for the 2018 midterm elections. This year, students can still use the postal ballots, which have become increasingly used during the Covid-19 pandemic, or voting in an off-campus location in downtown Athens.
The university said it will provide a shuttle to the downtown polling station.
“It is certainly a disappointing decision in our eyes. But we are convinced that there are alternatives to voting on campus that can complement this voting location, ”Berton from UGAVotes told CNN. “We are by no means experts on social distancing or sanitation, so if the university didn’t believe they could implement these precautions in order to make voting safe for everyone, then in the end of account, this is the decision they go to. make. ”
The announcement caught the attention of a number of Georgian politicians, including Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, who tweeted: “I urge the UGA to immediately reverse the course and provide students with a vote. anticipated on campus safely! ”
Fair Fight UGA created a petition asking the school to change its decision, and Abrams shared it by tweeting: “# COVID19 should never be used as an excuse to limit access to voting, including on college campuses . Within hours, more than 600 people had signed.
“If we can have football, we should also vote,” Fair Fight UGA tweeted Wednesday.