With younger voters expected to account for a major portion of the electorate this year, NewsOne’s The Black Ballot invited panelists from that demographic to sit down and discuss some of the more pressing issues facing them that could influence the way they vote.
Mikelina Belaineh, a lawyer and community regeneration advocate, and Rachel Howell, the president of Howard University’s Student Association, joined moderator Bruce C.T. Wright, the managing editor of NewsOne.com, to break down what’s most important to them heading into one of the most anticipated elections in modern history. Michael Deegan-McCree, the partnerships coordinator at The Bail Project, was also scheduled to join the panel but was unfortunately unable to attend.
Nevertheless, Belaineh and Howell provided a lively discussion on everything from voter suppression, healthcare, racial justice and, of course, the coronavirus. But for Belaineh, who’s representing Millennials, the most important issue heading into the election is mass incarceration.
“I will always stand by my belief that mass incarceration is the civil rights issue of our time because the criminal legal system actually sits as the source and at the crux of pretty much every other system of oppression,” Belaineh said before continuing later. “Until we figure out how to undo this racial caste system that has so many of our community members, family members in a second-class status where they can be legally discriminated against … as long as that I still up and functioning – every other policy just doesn’t get at the root cause of what’s keeping Black and brown people from getting free.”
Howell, who is a Gen Z’er, spoke on behalf of her fellow college students across the country. She stressed how important a tool social media has become for her generation and the crucial role it’s been playing during this election season.
“It’s just very important for candidates to meet people where they are, and the way you reach out to our generation is through social media,” she said. “Social media just really provides us with that platform to reach out to people and have immediate access to them also that we can continue to advocate for them.”
Howell pointed to Sen. Kamala Harris‘ campaign organizing an effort to have HBCU students react in real-time to her debate against Vice President Mike Pence as a prime example of the type of social media outreach she would like to see more of from candidates.
“That was just very engaging,” Howell said. “A lot of students were tuned into that because conversations like these are important.”
She added: “I think social media is the perfect way to do that.”
Watch the full panel discussion below.