NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) – Young people, galvanized over social injustice, are predicted to have a strong turnout in the General Election in November, Tennessee State University political analysts say. Their strong voting numbers are expected in spite of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brian Russell, a political science professor at TSU, says the deaths of George Floyd and other black men and women due to police brutality is one main example of injustice that has energized young people to seek change, particularly in the case of elected officials.
“Think about how many people have gone out on the streets and protested,” says Russell. “That shows that people are motivated to do something, to make change.”
“When young people do come out in high numbers, things happen that don’t usually happen,” adds Russell. “Think about in 2008 when President (Barack) Obama was elected. That was an election when more young people than normal came out to vote.”
Russell says COVID-19 will affect voter turnout to some degree, but he doesn’t expect it to dampen the fervor to vote he’s seeing in young people around the country. TSU History Professor Erik Schmeller agrees.
“I’m always impressed with how worked up our students can get, and how they focus that on things,” says Schmeller, who is also the director of the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement at TSU.
“National organizations are also pushing the message, that this is your opportunity to get engaged and make a difference. Vote.”
Junior Tiara Thomas of Olive Branch, Mississippi, is among a number of students at TSU who are heeding that directive, and encouraging others to do the same. The political science major is the creator of TSU Votes, a social media platform that makes students aware of voting dates, what’s happening nationally in politics, as well as works with other voter advocacy organizations to ensure students stay informed.
“Not voting for my generation is not an option,” says Thomas, who also has a podcast that allows students to express their views about politics in general. “And I try to make sure that my peers know that.”
Russell Waters, a junior from Huntsville, Alabama, works with Thomas to spread awareness about voting. When students return in the fall, he says he plans to have flyers ready with election information, such as election deadlines, and using mail-in ballots if necessary.
“We’re really focusing on the General Election,” says Waters, a computer science major. “It’s a very important election. So, we’re going to keep doing what we’re doing until Election Day.”
TSU students are not alone in their effort to make sure people vote. President Glenda Glover and TSU were recently selected by The General® Insurance to participate in Shaquille O’Neal’s social media challenge to encourage voter registration for the 2020 General Election.
The #MyStartingFive challenge was launched by SHAQ and Boston Celtics All-Star Jayson Tatum, alongside the national, nonpartisan non-profit organization, When We All Vote, whose mission is to increase voter participation in elections. The organization, launched by co-chair and former First Lady Michelle Obama in 2018, seeks to educate eligible voters on the power of their voice and their vote, and take action. Participants in the challenge will nominate five people to register and pledge to vote in November’s election via the When We All Vote #MyStartingFive voter registration portal: whenweallvote.org/mystartingfive.
To learn more about the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement, visit http://www.tnstate.edu/servicelearning/.
Department of Media Relations
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Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a premier, historically black university and land-grant institution offering 39 bachelor’s degree programs, 24 master’s degree programs, and seven doctoral degrees. TSU is a comprehensive research intensive institution with a R-2 Carnegie designation, and has a graduate school on its downtown Avon Williams Campus, along with the Otis Floyd Nursery Research Center in McMinnville, Tennessee. With a commitment to excellence, Tennessee State University provides students with a quality education in a nurturing and innovative environment that prepares them as alumni to be global leaders in every facet of society. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.