How young, black voters helped Doug Jones win
On December 12, Democratic candidate Doug Jones beat Republican candidate Roy Moore in an Alabama special Senate election. While Moore had faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct with underage girls leading up to the election and was already seen as a controversial political figure, Alabama is a historically conservative state, and many couldn’t predict how the election would go.
22-year-old Tyler Bryant, a senior at Alabama State University and president of the Alabama College Democrats, told the FBomb about the efforts many students made on the ground to mobilize young voters and black voters to help Jones win.
In Alabama we are still stuck in the 1970s and 1980s in the way we do things — especially when it comes to politics. Thanks to the gerrymandering of voting lines in Alabama, it’s really hard for black people and black areas to thrive here. Beyond Alabama, black people have long been the scapegoats when liberal candidates don’t win elections. For these reasons and more, I’m so glad the special Senate election went the way it did. This election, black people felt like they saved the state and even the country.
Leading up to the election, I was an organizer with Woke Vote, a black-led state initiative that encouraged all people, but mainly black people, to get out and exercise their right to vote in the Alabama special Senate election on December 12. We walked on campus every day and registered people to vote, told them where to vote if they were already registered, and asked them to fill out voter commitment cards. We went to the homecoming football game on Thanksgiving and made sure people there knew who the candidates were and signed them up to get a text reminding them to go vote. We even made a rap video to remind people to go vote.
As a student at a historically black college (HBCU), I take pride in being a changemaker. HBCUs have long served as the foundation for the creation of great changemakers. My predecessors at this university participated in the civil rights movement, which helped give black people the right to vote in the first place. Why not encourage the people who go to this school in particular, who are a living legacy of what these people fought and died for, to get involved?
We weren’t the only students active on campus. Doug Jones’ campaign had student leaders on campus who represented his campaign and recruited other students to help with phone banks. This was different than most politicians, who rarely cater their messages to us. If candidates involved college students more and actually listened to us speak about the issues that matter to us, especially on the state and local level, it would make a difference. Inviting someone to actually work with a candidate instead of just telling them to vote for them gives them a better idea of who the candidate is and how the process works. A lot of my peers on campus are engaged in the political process, but they don’t have a lot of hope in the leaders we have right now.
Although a lot of the students at Alabama State University are not from the state of Alabama, they spend four years here. The laws that are passed here affect them as well. Take education: Alabama State University is a publicly funded university, so any change in state funds allocated to us will tamper with how much financial aid our students will be able to receive. Between not knowing if you’ll qualify for a Pell grant or if you’ll be offered a scholarship, it’s already hard enough for college students to figure out how to pay for college with financial aid. We were told to get a college education to reach our highest potential and get jobs that pay well. But we want politicians who will make sure we’re able to utilize these educations that we’ve gone into great debt for — to make sure we have jobs when we graduate. Many laws that politicians pass now won’t necessarily damage voters our parents’ and grandparents’ ages as much as they will affect us and our children in the future.
Ultimately, I want to encourage people of all races to utilize the right to vote because who is going to speak up for you better than you? Nobody knows what you want and need if you don’t voice those things. I feel like Woke Vote encouraged people to find that inner voice and speak up for themselves: You have a voice, use your voice, go vote. I’m proud to have played a part in empowering black people to find their inner strength and realize that we are capable of achieving a lot if we band together and actually use our voices.
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