Young people in Wisconsin are helping lead the charge this election season with a message for everyone to get out and vote. Here in Milwaukee, that means going to door to door asking people if they plan to vote and providing voter guides with information on the candidates.
Some of those leaders are young people of color. This past Saturday, dozens of high school and college students spent part of their weekend canvasing different neighborhoods to make sure people get out to vote.
On Milwaukee’s north side, NextGen Wisconsin and Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) hosted what they called the “Rally For Our Ancestors.” The event was part of NextGen America’s Black Lives Rising program.
“This is a very important time. A time where we’re trying to show the sense of urgency that folks need to have in regards to voting in this upcoming election, and really showing that young black people have a voice and have the power to change the political system right now and we can do so by voting,” said George Olufosoye, the state youth director for NextGen Wisconsin.
The goal of the event was to mobilize young black voters in areas of Milwaukee with the highest concentration of black residents. So, the young people hit the ground running. I joined some canvassers as they went door to door near Marquette’s campus.
There have been many efforts this election season focused on getting communities of color, especially the black community, out to the polls.
The push is in response to a significant decline in voter turnout in predominantly black neighborhoods in 2016, when Donald Trump was elected president. Turnout dropped as much as 28 percent in some areas, compared to when Barack Obama ran for re-election in 2012. NextGen and LIT organizers are optimistic that youth can help boost numbers again.
Dakota Hill, executive director of LIT, says the young people are not to be underestimated.
“I think people don’t count on young people voting. I think they count on a lot of different communities not turning out in these types of elections that aren’t presidential. They’re expecting low turnout with African-American voters, they’re expecting low turnout with young voters, expecting low turnout with the Latinx population," Hill said. "And, so we’re out today with 30-40 young people, showing that we actually are going to make a difference and we won’t be underestimated, and then when we win in a few days people will know they were put on notice.”
High school students — even those that haven’t yet reached the voting age – and college students are participating in the "get out the vote" efforts.
Mireya Mercado is a NextGen fellow and senior at Marquette University. “I’m here to make sure people know that we care that they show up to the polls,” Mercado said.
Mercado added that youth, and young people of color in general, aren’t often the target audience on candidates’ campaign trails. But she says millennials are a large voting population.
Mercado said when they show up, they can really make a difference in voting for candidates that'll represent their interests. “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a voice. Your vote counts, and you can’t really do anything after the fact if you don’t show up to the polls.”
Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company.
Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee that you'd like WUWM's Teran Powell to explore? Submit it below.