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Athens residents vote early at City Hall and the Board of Elections in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2020. Poll workers said the second location, City Hall, was opened in response to the long lines on Monday. (Photo/Taylor Gerlach; @taylormckenzie_photo)

In an effort to get Athens voters to the polls, several companies and nonprofit organizations are offering free or discounted rates on transportation services.

The outcome of the 2020 election will be determined by the people who make it to the polls. According to a 2016 study by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University, 29% of all 18 to 29 year olds in the survey cited lack of transportation as a reason why they didn’t vote, with 15% calling it a major factor. 

“I’ve been fortunate to have a car since I was 16, but I know there are many people, especially people that do not live downtown, that would struggle to make it to early voting,” said Max Barnhart, a third-year graduate student at the University of Georgia studying plant biology. 

In August 2018, the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union wrote a letter to the Randolph County election board with “grave concern” about the board’s proposal to eliminate seven out of nine polling places.

“People who lack access to transportation are going to be underrepresented in the election and at the polls,” said Alex Purcell, a fourth-year graduate student studying in the infectious disease department.

Gotcha Mobility, a company that rents e-bikes to students through the Bulldog Bike Share program, will offer free rides to polling places on Nov. 3, according to a company press release. 

Gotcha Director of Public Relations Caroline Passe announced this as part of their participation in Roll to the Polls, an industry-wide campaign in partnership with the North American Bikeshare Association to provide voters with transportation for the upcoming election.

Other ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft are offering discounts only on Election Day.

Uber is offering an in-app poll-finding feature, as well as 50% off roundtrip rides up to $7 each trip, according to their website. This discount also applies to Uber’s bikes and scooters and will be automatically applied when a ride is requested using the poll-finding feature.

Lyft is offering 50% off one ride up to $10 to any polling location or ballot drop-box with the code “2020VOTE.” This offer also includes Lyft’s bikes and scooters in select cities, according to their website.

The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement, a nonprofit civil rights advocacy organization, will also be providing free rides to the polls. 

“There are so many barriers to transportation. I think [providing] poll transportation is one way for the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement to show the Athens community that we care and we want people to vote,” said Administrative Assistant and Volunteer Coordinator Sachi Shastri.

Shastri said that during the pandemic, the barriers for transportation are higher than ever. 

“A lot of folks that want to vote may not have the resources or the time needed in order to actually get to the polls,” Shastri said. “They may have ordered an absentee ballot and it may not have come in time and they need to go in person but they don’t have a car, and they may be afraid to use public transportation because of the pandemic.”

AADM plans to provide a van service on Election Day running from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Social distancing will be observed and masks and hand sanitizer will also be available. Those in need of transportation should contact AADM by calling or texting 706-389-4129, said Shastri.

“Now is more important than ever to overcome the challenges and stressors so many are facing to get to the poll and feel like your vote is counted,” said Alec Nelson, a fourth year graduate student in UGA’s department of forestry.

UGA will not be offering additional transportation to polling places aside from the normal scheduled bus service, according to UGA spokesperson Greg Trevor.

Trevor said UGA students, faculty and staff are also eligible to ride Athens Transit for free.

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