‘We Didn’t Vote in 2016’: Why These Young NC Voters Are So Eager to Vote This Year

In an election roiled by coronavirus and racial injustice, three young voters tell us what's motivating them for this election. President Trump came up early and often. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

By Max Millington

October 5, 2020

Three college voters from Wilmington, Fayetteville and Greensboro talk about the issues and the candidates that will drive them to the polls this year. 

North Carolina’s young voters are among the nation’s most influential, according to a recent study. The Tar Heel state’s high ranks are due to it being one of the most competitive states in the 2020 presidential election and the high youth turnout rates in the last two presidential elections. In addition, young adults aged 20-29 make up the highest percentage of the state’s population.  

In 2020, for the first time, NC will have voter registration for DMV customers which may further improve young people’s access to voter registration. The deadline to register online, by mail (postmarked by), and in person is Oct. 9. Some full-time college students may face more hurdles when voting in the next couple weeks. Voting in-person safely, mail-in voting and navigating the absentee ballot process can be challenging. 

Cardinal & Pine spoke to three college students and Next Gen organizers from different NC schools about why they are motivated to vote and how they plan to navigate the process this year. 

Tarvars Denning, from Garner, is an English Literature major at Fayetteville State University. Marcia Lacopo, from Greensboro, is an Arts Administration major at UNC-Greensboro, and Andrew Lemon, from Morganton, is a Political Science major at UNC-Wilmington. 

From L to R: UNC-Wilmington student Andrew Lemon, UNC-Greensboro student Marcia Lacopo, and Fayetteville State University student Tarvars Denning.

C&P: What national issues are motivating you to go to the polls?

Tarvars: Climate change is the first (issue) and the second would be social injustices. 

Marcia: I am drawn to the polls, because I am a woman and I feel that my rights have been taken away. I think it’s very important that we use the rights that we have right now, to stand up for what we believe in and stand up for the things that we deserve.

Also, I identify as a queer woman. The attacks that Donald Trump and his administration has made on the queer community has really got me fired up and has really made me want to get out and vote this year. 

Andrew: Trump has been a disaster for our democracy. I think that getting him out of office as soon as possible is just the very beginning. Probably the most important issue that I’m voting on is the impacts of climate change on our country.

I think people kind of underrate the amount that a green new deal could jumpstart economies, especially in areas where it’s stagnating, I know how huge that would be for Wilmington as being a big coastal city and a lot of people here care about the environment.

C&P: What local issues are motivating you to go to the polls?

Tarvars: Climate change and creating better jobs for North Carolinians.

Marcia: There are some really great candidates, like Cal Cunningham who is running for (US) Senate this year. He cares about the environment, he cares about supporting health care, he cares about supporting North Carolinians, for what they need. I’m voting for people that actually want to support North Carolinians like me.

Andrew: Wilmington is a place that is really in tune with the environment. I feel like candidates that can back the city up in what seems to be a very commonly held environmental goal are going to be the kinds of people that get people out there motivated, especially young people.

C&P: There are a lot of obstacles to voting this year such as navigating the mail-in and absentee ballot process and of course voting safely in person during a pandemic may be hard for some. What are your plans to overcome these challenges? 

Tarvars: I would like to use a (Benjamin Franklin) quote that says “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” The information has been put on several websites, as far as deadlines on when to request an absentee ballot and when to make sure that you’re registered to vote. So you just have to be proactive, and make sure you know the deadlines and that you’re following all of the procedures and rules put in place to vote.

Marcia: I’m a strong believer that you should not have to sacrifice your health to be able to exercise your right to vote. I am a huge proponent of mail-in voting. I think it’s a great option for folks that do not feel safe leaving their homes to go exercise their right to vote. For people like me who are healthy young Americans, I’ve been telling a lot of people they can request a mail-in ballot, have it delivered to their home, fill it out on their own time, and then turn it in to their local board of elections in person, because the current administration has placed an attack on the USPS system. 

I understand when people are nervous to mail their ballots back, and they want to make sure that their vote is counted for what they’ve put down. I absolutely encourage people to go turn in their ballot in person if they can. That’s actually my plan to vote this year. I’ve requested my absentee ballot, I’m waiting for it to come in the mail and I’m just going to turn it into my board of elections place down the street from my house.

Andrew: I plan on putting two stamps on my mail-in ballot just in case one isn’t good enough. I plan on sending it as early as possible to make sure it has ample time to be counted before the election. I want to make sure mine gets in there as soon as possible.

I also have a lot of friends who are voting absentee as well. So what I plan on doing is buying a big sheet of stamps, and I’m going to make sure everyone who needs a stamp is going to get one.

C&P: How do you galvanize people that are less optimistic or less motivated to vote?

Tarvars: One of the techniques that I use is to slide in the DMs. This is a great conversation starter. For a lot of my friends, we’re remote and we can’t be accessible to each other on campus. So, social media is definitely one of the better platforms to reach out to people. 

For Black males who have the mindset of “my vote really doesn’t count,” I just explain to them the process and break everything down, letting them know, this is the person who makes the decision regarding your issues. I’ve definitely been giving out as much information as I can and sending out many resources as well.

Marcia: As an organizer, I talk to a lot of voters every single day, but it’s my job to talk to people to get them fired up about this election. I think the biggest thing that I’ve come to terms with is the reason that we’re in this position now is because we didn’t vote in 2016. People that were eligible to vote didn’t turn out to the polls. That’s the least we can do this year. 

Andrew: Even though we may not have as much sway personally over the system, voting is still what we were afforded. I think it would be stupid to not take advantage of what we’re given. If we’re starving, we’re not going to throw away the meal because it’s not four courses.


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