From ensuring access to abortion, to funding public education, and enacting common-sense gun control, some of the most critical issues of our time will be decided on Election Day. The United States will undoubtedly be transformed by the election results — and the 1.2 million Black people who became newly eligible to cast a ballot will be able to participate in the democratic process for the first time.
In particular, young Black voters have an opportunity to create the change they wish to see — and that’s especially true for students attending the nation’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
Getting Students Registered and Informed
Dillard University’s 87th Student Government Association President Marissa Pittman says she’s been working all year to ensure that the New Orleans-based school’s student body is ready to make their voices heard at the polls.
“Voting can help change the trajectory of our communities. It is critical that we exercise our right to vote because there are people without our best interest at heart.” Pittman says.
Pittman says that in September, Dillard’s Student Government Association partnered with UNITE Inc. to host voter registration events on its 1,200-student campus. As a result, over 50 students registered to vote, and nearly 200 pledged to vote in the 2022 midterms.
On Election Day, Dillard — along with other civic and student organizations on campus — is hosting March to the Polls — an effort to mobilize students around voting. The university also partnered with community organizations, such as the Power Coalition and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to break down ballot measures and ensure students are informed voters.
“Students care about the repeal of Roe v. Wade, accessibility to contraceptives, and student debt relief. Slavery is also on the ballot in the state of Louisiana, so it is a pressing issue,” Pittman says.
Indeed, a “yes” vote on Louisiana Amendment 7 supports removing language from the state constitution that allows involuntary servitude as punishment for a crime and adding language to say that the section of the constitution prohibiting slavery and involuntary servitude “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”
A Focus on Eliminating Voter Misinformation
Dexter Maryland, the 75th student body president of Texas Southern University, says he is focused on eliminating misinformation and disinformation to help the 10,000 undergraduate students at the Houston-based school confidently cast their ballots.
Since 2020, voter suppression tactics like moving polling places and not allowing folks adequate time off of work have been used to keep Black people nationwide from voting. Maryland believes, however, that as long as Black folk know what is at stake, they will make it to the polls.
“They think that we don’t understand voting and what is at stake. However, we are some of the most knowledgeable young individuals in the history of our country,” Maryland says.
As in many places, in Texas, the political stakes are high. The governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, comptroller, land commissioner, and agriculture commissioner — who all serve four-year terms — are up for election. All U.S. representatives, state senators, state representatives, and members of the Texas State Board of Education are also up for election after the redrawing of political districts last year based on the 2020 census.
Recognizing the Power of the Black Vote
While Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic candidate for Texas governor, and Gary Chambers, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Louisiana, have both come to Dillard to engage HBCU voters, Pittman says that speaking to Black youth during elections is not enough — candidates must also keep their promises and continue to engage Black voters after they are elected.
“Young Black folks are paying attention to our elected officials, and if they do not keep their promises, they will be voted out. Young Black voters are engaging our communities and encouraging folks to vote,” she says.
No matter what, Maryland says Black youth need to keep fighting for justice.
“Your vote is your power, the only way systems can continue to oppress us is if we don’t get out and get active within our voting system,” Maryland says.”The powers that be believed our voice is powerful, and it’s fearful to them. We have to continue to push and fight against suppression.”
Read here to learn how you can create your voting plan: We Need the Young Black Vote
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