Voting during a pandemic is even more complicated.
I’m Sonia Rao, the City & State Editor for The Daily Tar Heel. Welcome to Before You Vote, where we’ll be breaking down what you need to know about voting every Tuesday until Election Day.
AD: This ad is sponsored by Vote America. Election Day is Nov. 3, but you can vote early in North Carolina until Oct. 31. Also, in North Carolina, you can register and vote on the same day during the early vote period. Make your plan to vote at VoteAmerica.com/Students.
SR: UNC students have been preparing for the election, which is quickly approaching. I talked to a few student leaders about how they’re helping to engage student and minority voters.
Greear Webb is a sophomore at UNC who founded a non-profit in high school called Young Americans Protest. He said he’s been working through this group to engage students.
Greear Webb: We've been able to really rally high school seniors and college students and get them energized about the election and get them to the polls. And so we just filmed a social media campaign that should be launching soon.
SR: Webb is also a member of UNC’s Black Student Movement, where he said he’s been participating in similar events.
GW: We've been hosting a series of events this fall to really encourage students of color throughout UNC and in the chapel hill community to vote, and to make your voices heard and to understand that voting is not the only way to make a difference in this nation or in your community. But it is one way, in a powerful way at that.
SR: He said although virtual advocacy during the pandemic has been tough, the hard work is worth it.
GW: We've been really excited to see how many people how many students of color at UNC are joining the zooms and logging on to really understand what's at stake in 2020.
SR: Part of the reason Webb said he thinks getting young people out to vote is so important is because of past voting trends. He said historically, young people aged 18-30 are part of the voter cohort that doesn’t always turn out.
GW: We really want to flip that idea on its head, we know that there are millions of young people that are eligible to vote this year. And so we can really make a difference when it comes to the policies that are going to impact our future. So often the policies that are created and legislation that is approved, is going to impact young people for the longest amount of time. And so it's so important that we have a say in those issues in those policies.
SR: He said many of the issues at stake in 2020 have the largest impact on young people.
GW: This affects you because you care about student debt, this affects you because you also want to reduce gun violence around your community you're in in your community, this affects you because you care about climate change and global warming, and you want to reduce its effects. This affects us, specifically students of color, because we know that there's foundational racism in this country, and that the nation was set up to disadvantage those of us who are not white and so to understand that with the campaign's that exist, that are out there today, you really can make a difference by voting and saying that you want to put your trust in people that are going to advance your values.
SR: Webb said it’s especially important for students of color to vote this year.
GW: I like to dispel one of the myths that is out there, that young people are lazy or that we don't care. I feel like so often we do care, but we aren't sure the best avenues to use our voice. And so by protesting, as we have after the unfortunate murder of George Floyd this year, and by voting and by doing other things that include, you know, making our voices heard in college spaces, speaking up in majority adult spaces and saying we have something to say by doing those things, we can really flip that narrative on its head and say that young people are doing everything we can to get involved. And that starts on Nov. 3 and during early voting this year.
SR: He said he thinks recent events have encouraged more young people and people of color to vote.
GW: And to say, you know, maybe I don't agree with everything that so and so candidate is doing, or so and so campaign is doing, but I know that they're going to listen, and I know that they're going to listen to us as young people, and they're going to do everything they can to prevent an act like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery from happening in the future. And so I think the injustice, the racial injustice paired with COVID-19. And we're seeing its disproportionate effects on young students of color. Now, those have really come into play when it comes to increasing the student vote this year in this election.
SR: He said there’s a couple key issues he’s seen students engage with this year, including racial equity and COVID-19.
GW: Definitely coronavirus, we see the way that its impacts around the nation, affect us at the college level and affects how we are able to learn with UNC being totally online right now. And still, there being some uncertainty about the spring COVID-19 is a big issue for young people, and specifically students. I also think that racism, racial injustice, systemic racism, how candidates are seeking to really address that and uproot the racism that plagues our nation. That's a big key idea when it comes to youth and students that are voting in 2020.
SR: Other issues he said are important include gun violence and climate change.
GW: I’d also say that climate change as well as gun violence are some issues that I’m hearing from many of my peers as well as myself, as something that we’re very passionate about and are willing to really put our votes, you know, where our mouths are, and say that we care about these issues. We want to move forward, and we want to, you know, elect people that are going to come to us and ask, you know, are we doing what you all the citizens want us to do? And are we getting closer to that goal? Whatever that goal may be.
SR: He said no matter who you want to cast your ballot for, the most important thing is to give yourself a voice and vote.
GW: And so to understand as a young person, as a young student of color, at a public university, the nation's first public university and all of the history, all of the struggle and strife that comes with that being able to raise my voice and say, not only can I protest, not only am I willing to listen to those around me and help others, like me who want to get involved, give them the avenues to succeed and to use their voices in a democracy. But now I can actually do one of the primary functions of the republic, and that is voting.
SR: America Juarez-Maldonado is a UNC sophomore who is the Political Action Committee chair of Mi Pueblo, at Latinx organization at UNC.
She’s been utilizing her role to uplift Latinx voices, especially when it comes to politics.
AJ: Right now, what my committee is working on with voting, is we're doing infographics with information where students can access links to, we're actually working on a voting video, because we believe that students should voice why they're voting, I believe voting is a privilege, especially in the Latinx community, most of us or most of us have family members who are undocumented. And so also working on projects that bring organizations together, where we can voice and spread awareness, and have a safe space to communicate.
SR: She said this year, she’s seen a rise in how students use social media to engage politically.
AJ: We use social media as a platform, social media has been has I feel like proven that it spreads awareness quite easily. It can spread information, like where to vote, how to vote. Currently, you can even see like information, even getting free rides to the polling areas, which I think is important, because those are one of the barriers of voting. We are literally getting educated through social media by students who are spreading this awareness or even spreading this information. And I think that's beautiful in a way, seeing young people actually taking the leadership role and using their voice, which we hope more more people get the courage to do in this country.
SR: Juarez-Maldonado said that until she saw easily accessible information on social media, she herself was unsure of how to vote, and didn’t see the importance of voting.
AJ: I feel like the barriers to voting has a lot to do with just how the system doesn't want minority people to vote. There certainly even I've seen on social media how it takes 11 hours in Georgia for someone to to vote. That is crazy. I think that's something that shouldn't be happening, but it is and so like social media and just seeing how easily this is spread and how I was informed by watching a minute video says a lot into how someone could get educated and someone can easily vote in this election.
SR: She said her Latinx background has made her realize voting is a privilege.
AJ: I have family members who are undocumented. My parents are undocumented. And so it really made me realize how voting is a privilege. And the like, our vote is going to make a decision and how our future is going to look like in four years.
SR: She said she hopes that the work she does also helps students bring the conversation to their family.
AJ: I think the Latin x community lacked that confirmation that comes from lack that conversation of politics. As I said before, my parents are documented so they don't know much about the American system. And they don't really care because they can't vote, they can't do much about it. So the conversations on politics or why we should vote is minimal. And so, for me, I feel like I tried to bring that conversation up to my family. I helped my cousin's, you know, registered to vote. I did some foam baking, talking to other people to vote, or if asking if they're registered. I tried to encourage others and hope that, you know, maybe I can at least have someone who can vote for this election.
SR: And Juarez-Maldonado said she wants everyone listening to vote, because she feels this election will shape not only her future, but students and minorities everywhere.
AJ: We're talking about human beings. We're talking about health care, climate change, immigration, workers rights, people of color. We're talking about everything, basically, politics. Like it or not plays a role in your life. And I feel like, that's the scary part, or just the scary part of this election that the leader that we have is going to affect us negatively or positively. This next for in the next four years.
SR: Early voting is underway, and ends Oct. 31. There are seven days left to request an absentee ballot. And there are 14 days left until election day.
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Tune in next Tuesday to listen to us discuss election security.
This episode was produced by Meredith Radford.