TRENTON, N.J. — The voter turnout among young people was historic in 2020, proving that young voters are now a force when it comes to elections.
Since then, that enthusiasm has been met with a rise in voter suppression bills across the country. It’s why this weekend, many students are being called to rise up to take part in a virtual summit to become leaders in their community.
Student activists from across the country kicked off the 2021 National Civic Leadership Training Summit Friday, an annual Initiative from the Andrew Goodman Foundation.
The virtual event zeroes in on current voting issues and the tools now available to organize against voter suppression — an issue in the national spotlight as a number of states drafted and passed legislation restricting existing voting rights, as the landmark “For the People act” stalls in Congress.
“Right now, over 400 bills are going up across the country that will really criminalize the things we’ve done to mobilize people to vote,” said Alexandria Harris, the President of the Andrew Goodman Foundation. “Everything from really jeopardizing early voting to jeopardizing mail in ballots.”
A slew of speakers on deck, including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, aims to educate and empower a new generation of leaders, organizers say.
“Rise up and engage in all levels of government,” said Gov. Murphy. “Continue organizing to drive change within your state.”
In addition to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 26th amendment which lowered the voting age to 18, this year’s summit will also pay tribute to the 57th anniversary of the murders of Andrew Goodman, James Earl Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
Goodman — the foundation’s namesake — traveled to Mississippi in 1964 to help get black Americans registered to vote but he along with Chaney and Schwerner, two civil rights workers. They were murdered by Ku Klux Klan members.
“I think it’s really important to talk about the parallels in 2020 when people voted we had students in Wisconsin who had underlining health conditions who stood on line in a pandemic to try to vote,” said Harris. “Not enough is being said about how they risked their lives.”
As day one of the summit comes to a close, day two begins at noon on Saturday. One of the big topics on the agenda — organizing local movements in your community.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the last name of Alexandria Harris.