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Your Vote Is Your Voice

Voting is of utmost importance, but Florida HBCU students have different opinions about the best way to vote in 2020.

Today’s college students are the largest and most diverse cohort in history - and they have substantial power to decide the outcome of the 2020 election.

While youth turnout is historically lower than the general population - twice as many students voted in 2018 as they did in 2014. Student leaders in Florida have been organizing their communities to build on this trend.

Xavier McClinton

Florida A&M University student body president Xavier McClinton expressed how important it is for students to vote, even during a pandemic.

“You still have a constitutional right and a civil obligation to go out, vote, and be a part of this process,” said McClinton. “The first step is having the right elected officials in office to make those changes for us, so we have to play a part in this role. We can’t afford to sit out. As an HBCU, we can’t afford to sit out and not be a part of this process.”

McClinton recommends FAMU students who are registered to vote in Leon County vote early on campus at the Efferson Student Union in the multipurpose room. Those who aren’t registered in Leon County or prefer to vote on Election Day will have to find their polling places online.

Members of FAMU Student Government promote election-based events via FAMU Info or IStrike, which are both linked to students’ university accounts.

Many college students are unsure whether to vote in-person or by mail due to the pandemic and allegations about the voting system not counting your vote. N’Aaliyah Jno-Baptiste, Edward Waters’ College current SGA Chief of Staff, suggested students vote by mail given the circumstances.

“With the COVID-19 pandemic which we are currently experiencing, I would advise students to vote by mail,” she said. “I, personally, do not want students to get infected with this plague.

Hence, it is safer to vote by mail since there will be no congregating to ensure that your vote is cast.”

Jno-Baptiste was also adamant about utilizing early voting resources if at all possible. Early voting in Florida stretches from Oct. 19 to Nov. 2. “My general advice to those who remain skeptical about mailing in their ballots is that they are free to go out to the polling stations to vote,” she said. “Ensure that they know the nearest polling station. Most importantly, go out early to vote. Your vote is extremely important.”

Jno-Baptiste advises EWC students living on-campus to vote at the nearest polling station, Shell-Sweet Resource Wellness Center.

For those off-campus, there are several polling stations that they can visit for early voting. Jno-Baptiste recommended the Johnnie W. Walker Community Center or Woodlawn Presbyterian Church. Conversely, Mr. Florida Memorial University and captain of FMU’s men’s basketball team, Aubrey Washington suggested that HBCU students vote in-person.

“I believe voting in person is a more secure way to vote,” Washington said. “The mailing process involves the exchanging of your ballot between tons of different places, people, and mediums, which creates more opportunities for error. My voice is too important to be lost, and so is yours.”

Ariyon Dailey — editor-in-chief at FAMU’s student newspaper, The Famuan — stimulated a discussion on Twitter for many college students, public figures, and the media about the power you possess when deciding to or to not vote in any election.

“Not voting is not the power move you think it is,” she tweeted on Sept. 29. Florida Memorial students can vote on their campus, which may make the process more convenient for those registered locally.

“We are blessed to host a voting site right here on the campus of Florida Memorial,” Washington said. “By offering a polling site here, we are making it easier for our students and those in the surrounding communities to exercise their voting voices. This election is bigger than Florida Memorial, we have an obligation to do our part.”

Next: FAMU’s Student Government Chief Diversity Officer discusses the several students and alumni that have made an impact through political activism.