The year 2020 has been coined one of the worst years ever due to COVID-19. Despite Covid-19, 2020 has also been coined “The Year of the Young Voters”. More young people are going out and voting; amidst being in the middle of a pandemic. Younger people are using their voice more than ever to advocate for voting.
On October 26th Maia McCoy, a 22-year old student at the University of Tennessee stood outside the Baker’s Center in line to cast her early vote.
“This 2020 election means so much to me and my family. Firstly, I come from a long line of AKA’s and Vice President Kamala Harris is my fellow soror,” she said. “It means the world to me to see someone who looks like me, a woman of color, to be running for vice president. The things that happened over the course of the summer really opened my eyes as to why I should get out and vote. I really want to make a difference this time. I didn’t vote last election but I made it my business to vote this year. Seeing the way that Donald Trump has handled the coronavirus and social reform issues in this country over the summer made me realize that there has to be change. We deserve better and I feel like it starts with me. After I vote I’m going to post my I voted sticker to social media in hopes that my peers follow in my footsteps and we bring change.”
The Baker’s Center on the University of Tennessee’s Campus opened for early voting Oct. 26. Students took advantage of the early voting site being steps away from campus. Students, faculty and staff lined up outside of the Baker’s Center to cast their early voting ballot. Young voters and college students are also taking the initiative to vote while they are away from home.
“This is my first time ever voting,” said Jalen Tate, a UT senior. “I was registered to vote back in 2016 but there wasn’t really a motivation for people my age to vote, I thought of it as an old person thing to do. Now all I see is celebrities and my peers encouraging me to vote. I’m registered to vote in Clarksville, so I sent my ballot by mail about three days ago. My cousin and I have made a bet to see who could get the most of our friends to register to vote and I won. I got three of my friends to register and vote here on campus and it feels good. It makes me feel empowered.”
There are many factors driving younger people to vote this year such as abortion rights, social reform issues, presidential disposition. A pre-election analysis from CIRCLE found that there are 6.8 million more young people with a history of voting in 2020 than there were in 2016.
According to CIRCLE, as of June, 27% of 18- to 24-year-olds have attended a march of demonstration, a jump from the 5% and 16% of 18-24-year-olds who had done so in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Ahead of the 2020 election, according to CIRCLE, 83% of 18- to 24-year-olds say they believe young people have the power to change the country and 79% say that the Covid-19 pandemic has helped them realize politics affects their daily lives.
There have been a number of marches geared towards social reform issues in the country. The most prominent march in Knoxville was held at The University of Tennessee’s Campus on Aug. 29th led by student athletes, to address racial and social issues in the country. This shows that not only through voting have young people in Knoxville have stepped up, but also through marches and demonstrations. Young voters have made it clear that their voices can and will be heard.