Candidates have to motivate millennial voters to improve election turnout

By St. Clair Murraine

Outlook staff writer

While research has shown that Blacks generally turnout in large numbers on election day, millennials still lag behind when it comes to getting to the polls.

However, there is a consensus that the 18-37 age group will turn out if they’re motivated by the candidates. There is a general belief that millennials are largely driven by the candidates whose platform includes issues such as student debt, tuition-free education and housing.

Adner Marcelin, president of local NAACP, said the organization is focused on getting out the vote.

“If their single interest is not really part of the message, they seem to lose interest in the process as a whole,” said Keith Simmonds, a political science professor at FAMU. “It is regrettable.”

Just like they did in 2016, millennials are aligning themselves with Sen. Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the Democratic Party nomination. That’s because the age group finds Sanders’ Democratic Socialism message appealing, Simmonds said.

Rev. James Wright, a professor in the Askew School of Public Administration at FSU, suggested that millennials might not be voting as much as they should because they see faults in the system. He made his point, saying that millennials dissatisfaction with the status quo could be fueling organizations such as Black Lives Matter and other grassroots groups.

Curtis Taylor, president of the Tallahassee Urban League, said a workshop will be rescheduled to inform voters. Photos by St. Clair Murraine

“They think there is so much corruption within the system that their vote doesn’t matter to begin with,” Wright said.

According to the Pew Research Center, about 46 percent of eligible millennial voted in the last presidential election. Millennials make up about 31 percent of the overall electorate, the Pew study found.

Concern over how millennials are voting comes at a time when minority groups are making gains in their eligibility to vote. Hispanics are projected to have 32 million eligible voters this year. In comparison, 30 million Blacks, including millennials, will be eligible to vote, according to the Pew research. 

The fact that Hispanics are outnumbering Black voters is concerning to organizations such as the Urban League and the NAACP. Both local chapters have launched campaigns to encourage Black voters to participate in this year’s election – for local office and the presidency.

Although he couldn’t endorse either the Republican or Democratic party, Adner Marcelin, president of the NAACP’s local chapter, said voting should always be a priority for Blacks.

Rev. James Wright

Dr. Keith Simmonds

“I think when you look at what’s going on now compared to the things that our ancestors had to go through just to vote, you should not count it as a right,” he said. “You should count it as a privilege, especially those who come from African American ancestry.”

The NAACP’s campaign to encourage Black voters is ongoing, Marcelin said. He suggested that college students in particular should consider voting by mail if the coronavirus continues to be a threat leading up to the election in November.

Curtis Taylor, president of the local Urban League, said the organization also will be focusing on the millennial voters in college. This election “will have such a drastic effect on your life” that no eligible voter should stay away from the poll, Taylor said.

“Everybody can play a role by stepping up and voting,” he said. “For this election, no one can sit on the sideline; everybody must get into the game. We can’t let the weather stop us. We’ve got to get out and vote because this vote is more important than when (Barack) Obama was running the first time for president.”

The FSU Askew School of Public Administration has also been actively attempting to inform voters on the importance of this election. In fact,  Wright said a symposium with a focuses on the importance of the Florida vote and other issues will be reschedule for later this year after being cancelled over the coronavirus spread.

Cornell West, political activist and social critic, will be the keynote speaker at the symposium with the theme “Breaking the Chain.”

Wright also agreed that millennials have to be motivated to vote. However, they along with Blacks shouldn’t take the vote for granted even if there isn’t a charismatic candidate like Obama was in 2008.

“I think Blacks need to have their voice heard and their issues need to matter,” Wright said. “Yes, we traditionally vote for Democrats but if Democrats aren’t providing us with the resources ; policies that are going to help to empower our communities, then we need to maybe rethink that strategy and make sure they’re in-tuned with our needs.”