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North Carolina

The voice of the leaders

Students are well aware of the country’s issues ahead of the election and their personal concerns differ even as they hope for change to come.

Unprecedented challenges concerning COVID-19 have complicated election preparations for many students, and they worry about whether the next presidential candidate will fulfill what really matters most to the next generation of voters.

Some students seem to be somewhat disconnected from the voting process, according to Mister North Carolina A&T Victor Soloman. He suggested it may be tied to not comprehending how powerful the student vote is when utilized.

“Students aren’t registered to vote and they are not interested in getting registered to vote. That is a big problem,” he said. “As young people, we don’t realize how much power we have when it comes to voting.”

For the students who acknowledge their importance of the ballot, voter suppression and racial injustice are major concerns as the election approaches.

“Voter suppression is an urgent issue because the election is less than a month away. It’s crucial to make sure your vote counts,” said Naki Franklin, a North Carolina A&T student and member of her campus National Council of Negro Women chapter. “Some states are adding additional barriers to mail-in ballots, such as requiring a notary or a witness to sign your ballot, such as North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas,” she said.

At an institution with a history intertwined with people who could not always vote, some HBCU student leaders find there is an obligation to bring the Black community together for a stated purpose.

“As a student leader, at an HBCU specifically, I mostly care about the Black community coming together to exercise their right to vote,” said North Carolina Central University’s Miss Senior Dallas Thompson. “I care about voting on the executive level and local level. I want affordable health care and education for all.”

Access to health care is especially in front of mind for many, especially given the general upheaval tied to the pandemic. The coronavirus has especially adversely impacted Black Americans, compared to other groups.

“[We Americans] are one of the very few [countries] that are still struggling to get a handle on the virus and it’s time for a change,” said Shaw University’s Miss Senior Kharyn Oliphant.

Voting is important to Jeremiah Reese — Saint Augustine’s Mister Senior — but becoming an informed voter is vital to him as well.

“I want to get the student body involved in participating, but also researching who they’re voting for. I want the student body to vote locally, as well as, change their communities,” he said. “I want to inspire people to get involved in the world in other ways, such as programs and organizations. I just hope the election is a wake up call for us all.”

The sheer number of students in a mid-sized city like Greensboro means that they can wield some real influence at the ballot box and Soloman hopes those in his age group will come out in full force this November.

“Students count for 50% of the voting population [in Greensboro, North Carolina]. That is a huge advantage,” Soloman said. “I believe as a voter in general it is important to know who your candidates are and the platforms they stand on. I hope my generation takes advantage of this election season and use their voices to vote. Now, more than ever, it is time to use our voices to make a change.”

Next: Professors across North Carolina’s HBCUs discussed possible outcomes of this election, and how it could impact the years to come.