The summer after I turned 30, I watched 17-year old Trayvon Martin's killer walk free. The next year the Flint water crisis began (It's still happening), NYPD put Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold, Renisha McBride's murderer was found guilty, and Mike Brown's killing was the final straw leading to the Ferguson uprising where protesters were met with a militarized response. The year after that Lamia Beard, Penny Proud, Ashton O'Hara, Shade Schuler, and more were murdered. That summer, Twitter alerted me late during the 8:00 pm hour there had been a shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. At 33, Louisiana passed a "Blue Lives Matter" law; Goddess Diamond was killed in New Orleans; 49 people were killed at Pulse nightclub during Pride month; Alton Sterling was killed by police in Baton Rouge and the next day Philando Castile was killed by police in Minnesota; a Supreme court nomination was stalled to nothingness; Russia got ahold of the 2016 election and we got Donald; activists on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on traditional and ancestral land were met with pepper spray, dogs, sound canons, hoses, and arrest; and my doctor doubled the dosage of my anxiety meds.
The kids started it. But not these kids.
In 1980, when the oldest Baby Boomers were 34, the U.S. voting rate for ages 18-29 was 48.2%. For that age range this rate has been fairly characteristic over the last nearly four decades. The 18-29 voting rate dipped to a low of 39.6% in 1996 (when Generation X fit the demographic) and a high of 51.1% in 2008 (mostly Millennials and some late Gen Xers), but it's been in the 40-50% range for all other general election years 1980-2016. What this tells us is there isn't some vast difference between the voting rates of young people today and young people in the two previous generations.
Secretary of State is an important role in state governments. If you don’t believe me, look at what is happening with Brian Kemp as Georgia Secretary of State overseeing his own gubernatorial election. Or look at similar allegations against other secretaries of state for abusing power, misusing voter data, and disenfranchising voters. Whoever sits in that office holds sway on whether or not you can exercise your right to vote and how easy or difficult that process may be for you.
In Louisiana, the Secretary of State is the chief elections officer, administrator of corporation and trademark laws, and the state archivist. This office is responsible for business filings, the operation of museums in Louisiana, and proclaiming and publishing Louisiana laws. That sounds like kind of a big deal, right?
We are a little over two weeks out from the midterms - Election 2018. Being a millennial, I was looking over my ballot on the voter portal of the Louisiana Secretary of State website. Here in Louisiana, we have nine candidates for Secretary of State. That might sound like a ridiculous number to people from other states who don't have jungle-adjacent primaries. Here, everyone of whatever party runs in the general election. If someone gets a simple majority (more than 50%) in the general, that person wins the election. If not, we have a runoff between the two with the most votes a month later. So right now, we have nine people to look at for Secretary of State.
I like to do research on the offices and measures I'm going to vote on. For elected officials, I look at campaign websites, social media, news articles, video - anything that can give me indications of how you're going to help people or screw us over. In doing that research, I came across a candidate whose online profiles - website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram - gave me no indications either way. They told me nothing.
The candidate used a slogan repeatedly, but there was no indication of what that slogan really meant. Your slogan has to be standing on something! What do I mean? Let’s take Shirley Chisholm’s Presidential run for example. Now, she didn’t even win the Democratic nomination (and that’s another story), but Shirley had a memorable campaign slogan: Unbought and Unbossed.
Shirley didn't just say she was unbought and unbossed; she showed you how. She stood against the Vietnam War, called for ending job and pay discrimination, said we need to address the inequities in the housing market, and more. And she was consistent. Her political rival, infamous segregationist, George Wallace even told one of his crowds, "[Chisholm] says the same thing in Chicago that she says in Florida. I respect people, whether I agree with them or not, who say the same thing and don't talk out of both sides of their mouths." She didn't change her tune depending on the audience or donors. She told and showed what "Unbought and Unbossed" meant. You didn't have to wonder.
And that's a lesson. If you're going to have a slogan or other content that you want other people to get on board with, make it say something. Make it obvious. Have an issues page or a "My vision for Louisiana" or "My plan as Secretary of State" or at the least one line about a problem you intend to fix or a positive you want to build on. Show me a specific challenge you've addressed in the past that's relevant. Give me SOMETHING. Give me a specific example of how you serving as SOS would be good for #Louisiana, so I, the voter, can go into the booth with the idea "This candidate plans to do these things" and want to press the button by your name.
This article is adapted from one of my Twitter threads. Find me on Twitter: @joiultra
Consider all this data with a 2015 study by the American Press Institute's Media Insight Project. That study found "Millennials regularly follow a wide range of topics, and virtually everyone’s information diet in this generation involves a mix of hard news, soft news, and more practical or news-you-can-use topics." The younger generations' education and engagement on so many topics is enabled by digital media that meets us where we are and moves with us. This allows our news consumption to be woven throughout our dynamic lives rather than restricted to static sessions. It allows us to investigate issues more deeply without having to wait extended periods or switch between technologies, and it affords us insight from others the world over who have knowledge on topics of interest. And we take advantage of these allowances.
Created with images by stux - "thought cloud idea paper cut out opinion" • John Baker - "You Are Here"