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North Carolina

What To Expect When You're Electing

Students have varying concerns tied to the election, but they seem to agree on the importance of the vote as the nation faces such worrisome times.

With several amendments on the November ballot, HBCU students are now tasked with casting a vote for changes that affect them, including increasing the minimum wage and restoring voting rights to ex-felons.

Although such significant changes are on the ballot, they’re still skeptical that their votes make a real difference. “Our generation ... [has] such a distrust in this system, which is valid,” Florida A&M University student Niyah Lewis said. “We watched the system fail us time and time again. We view [the system] as broken and because it’s broken there are elements of it which cause students to believe that their vote isn’t a true vote so it’s like why vote at all.”

For many students, their college towns become home away from home for four years at minimum. This encourages them to vote concerning the issues in their area.

“I hope that this election will force policy makers to really dig deep and actually do things to level the playing field and give Blacks and minorities all the rights and opportunities that we are supposed to have,” Lewis said. “They often pick and choose what we deserve when in reality we deserve it all.”

For Lewis, getting President Donald Trump out of office is a priority, but it’s also about holding Governor Ron DeSantis accountable, especially in regards to amendment reversals. Tallahassee saw a rise in protests and rioting over the summer due to the unjust killings of Black people at the hands of the state. Lewis hopes students seek to change the system they are currently in.

“My biggest concerns are going to be the bills that are produced on the state level especially regarding stand your ground, police brutality, voter suppression, and protesting,” Lewis said. “When we look at Ron DeSantis, we’re seeing that he’s creating bills to villainize protestors, and overturn Amendment 4 which was passed in 2018. So it’s things like that that will shift the trajectory of the advancement of Black people and people of color depending on who wins the election.”

A 2017 study from Tufts University’s Institute for Democracy & Higher Education stated that voter participation among college students was up overall during the 2016 presidential election. However, among HBCU students, voting dropped by about 10 percentage points from the 2012 election. Voter turnout is a major concern for many Floridian HBCU students.

“My main concern is for students to actually get out and vote,” Bethune Cookman University student Bailey Williams said. “It’s a struggle for students to get involved with the Student Government Association and it was a struggle to get students to register to vote.”

A lack of resources plays a fundamental role in how HBCU students respond to elections, Williams said. She hopes the newly elected officials will take the time to allocate more funds towards historically Black colleges and universities.

“To vote is to stand your ground and speak up for yourself, those that came before you, and those that come after you,” Lewis said. “So many people fought for us to have the right to vote, don’t take it for granted. And it’s understandable that people don’t want to out of anger but it’s time to do the groundwork.”

Next: HBCU professors are ardent stakeholders in the upcoming election as their students contemplate entering the polls.