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A Mississippi college student registers to vote on campus

Young, Woke, and Voting: Youth Civic Engagement in Mississippi and the Power of Our Votes

Mississippi Votes Team
Mississippi Votes April 08, 2021

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACT: Tim Young - communications@msvotes.org

JACKSON, MS -- Mississippi Votes is an organization of intergenerational synergy centering and led by young people invested in the progression of Mississippi. Our organization’s programming and outreach strategies empower young people, encourages civic engagement, and educates communities on voting rights through place-based grassroots organizing.

Since inception, Mississippi Votes has been a pioneer and leader in voter registration and engagement in Mississippi. In a little over four years, Mississippi Votes has successfully recruited and retained over 400 statewide volunteers as well as registered over 15,000 new voters -- many of whom are young people of color on college campuses.

Because we place value and trust in the voices and experiences of young voters across our state, Mississippi Votes is disheartened at the statements made by Mississippi’s Secretary of State, Michael Watson, in a March WLOX interview where he falsely claimed that President Joe Biden’s Executive Order about expanding voter access would direct colleges and universities to “force college students to register to vote” through automatic voter registration. He continued, “the nation will suffer if more “woke” and “uninformed” college students become registered voters.

Mississippi Votes believes that expanding voter access through modernized electoral processes and the implementation of Civic Education in public schools is key to investing in the next generation of informed voters. The State of Mississippi has yet to do this. Hence, organizations like Mississippi Votes have engaged thousands of young voters through our Democracy Classes and youth civic engagement opportunities and fellowships. These opportunities allow young folks to explore and learn the ABC’s of voting in our state.

As a collective, young voters are savvy and quick learners. This generation of voters has more access to information than any other. These young people have already shown that they have the capability to lead our state and we must allow them to step into these roles by providing them with the resources and support they need. We should be empowering students who take an interest in learning about our political processes and are putting in the effort to make it better and more equitable for everyone. It does all Mississippians a disservice to discount the intelligence of our young people.

Here are the facts:

  • Automatic Voter Registration (AVR) would shift from an opt-in process to an opt-out process which would increase accessibility and participation in the voting process.
  • Automatic Voter Registration will eliminate the cost of processing paper voter registration forms; in Mississippi, the voter registration process has cost the state of Mississippi $5.44 to process a single voter registration form; AVR will eliminate that cost.
  • Automatic Voter Registration and other voter accessible policies will increase civic participation among young people.

Immediate Policy Recommendations:

  • Implement Electronic, Absentee Voting for College Students (can be informed by the UOCAVA process)
  • Implement AVR at the State and Local Levels
  • Implement Mississippi Votes’ First Time Voters Program in High Schools Across the State

Mississippi Votes would like to see the Secretary of State’s Office implement plans to expand voting access as promised in his 2019 Campaign plans. Mississippi Votes would like to work with the Secretary of State’s office to follow through with those plans with young people across the state as thought partners.

We invite the Secretary of State’s Office to join us for our Democracy Class next Saturday, April 17, 2021 to witness just how informed young people from across the state of Mississippi actually are about the issues and the process of voting.

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Cultivating a transformative culture of civic engagement across the state of Mississippi