Engaging Black Students to Increase Voter Participation at HBCUs

by Lauren Ashley Guzman

SAN MARCOS – According to Campus Vote Project, student voter participation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) decreased by 10.6% from 2012 to 2016. Nonprofit organizations are attempting to understand the barriers these students face and create solutions that will increase student voter participation.

One organization attempting to address this issue is Campus Vote Project. According to the Undefeated, Campus Vote Project found that college voters at HBCUs casted a disproportionate number of rejected provisional ballots. This is likely because students are registered to vote in their hometown’s county and are unable to cast valid ballots in their college town’s county. These provisional ballots are twice as likely to get rejected compared to other voters. This is just one of several obstacles college students face when it comes to voting.

Micheal Brown, political science major at Stanford University, believes young people are the “conscience of the country.” Brown said the notion of “politics do not affect my life” has been challenged in recent years. Furthermore, Brown says even if that were true, there is a new mentality that someone you know is affected by how you vote. He thinks that mentality is why young people have been more motivated to vote in this election.

Brown says misinformation and difficulty in the voting process can be discouraging for young voters. Addressing these concerns can be a keyway to increase student voter participation.

Todd Finley, Florida A&M graduate, gave insight as a former student on an HBCU campus and leader in the HBCU community. Finley created the Instagram account HBCUGrad which has 101,000 followers on Instagram. This is a platform that engages with students from HBCUs and discusses issues that affect them.

Finley said one way nonprofit organizations can connect with HBCUs is to remain present not only during election season.

“Sometimes students can perceive these organizations as inauthentic especially if they are not a part of the culture,” Finley says.

Finley also stressed students need to know the benefits of voting, specifically how it affects them. He said it could help to inform students on what people have gone through throughout history to grant people of color the right to vote.

Finley said social media and influencers are the best way to reach young audiences.

“You have to be in the same places people are already consuming [content] and if you do that you have a chance if the creative is authentic,” Finley says.

Audio project of the interviews with Micheal Brown and Todd Finley.

The infographic provides information regarding voting at HBCUs. The following photos provide a look at a Rio Grande Valley, minority community, polling location for the 2020 Presidential Election.

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