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How The Andrew Goodman Foundation is helping amplify young voices and votes this election season

Alexandria Harris, The Andrew Goodman Foundation Executive Director, joined Yahoo Finance to discuss how the organization is helping young voices and voters be heard this election season and how it is combating voter suppression.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: We are in the full swing of election season, so let's talk voting. And sorry for anyone who can hear my dog in the background. Excited about today's episode.

We are joined now by Alexandria Harris. She's the executive director of the Andrew Goodman Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at increasing minority and youth voter participation. As always, Jen Rogers and Sibile Marcellus are here for today's conversation.

Alex, thank you so much for joining us today. I don't think too many people know, but your organization was founded in the Civil Rights era, named after Andy Goodman, an activist who traveled to Mississippi to help Blacks register to vote. He was murdered by the KKK. Of course, he was then memorialized in the film "Mississippi Burning."

Wondering for you, today, now in 2020, President Trump's campaign is mobilizing poll watchers, which, for many, bring to mind that dark history of voter intimidation. It was rampant for decades until a decree, a 1982 decree, prevented Republicans from using voter suppression tactics. That is, of course, until that decree recently expired.

Wondering, as we are now less than a month away from elections, if you think that that dark history of voter intimidation could be repeated again in this election.

ALEXANDRIA HARRIS: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. This is such an incredible time for our country. And so, being here and having a chance to speak to your audience about voting is really important to me.

And your question is really important. I can't predict the future I have no idea what's going to happen. But if history is any indication of what we've seen over the primaries and all the elections before, I anticipate that voters should be prepared to walk boldly into their precinct, that they intend to vote in person, and to also prepare to vote by mail in the most effective way that they can.

We're telling people that if they intend to vote by mail, that they should absolutely follow up and make sure that their ballot was received. But anybody who feels comfortable going to Whole Foods, we encourage them to vote in person and to vote early. So if you can go get your groceries, then you can probably vote in person. But as far as voter suppression, we're going to experience a lot for sure.

KRISTIN MYERS: Well, over the last two decades, we've seen elections that are historic for a variety of reasons. The 2020 election is, as many are discussing, is going to be no exception. I myself-- and I know a lot of my friends were all operating in this echo chamber, where it seems, at least on social media, on Facebook, Twitter, et cetera, that everyone is getting mobilized.

All of my Black friends are registering their family members to vote. My Black relatives are all out there, getting ready to vote. I feel as if I am in a moment where voter turnout could be historic.

But I know that the echo chamber isn't necessarily reality. And this is something that you're dealing with on the ground, trying to get not just minorities to vote, but also younger people to vote. These are two groups that historically have low voter turnout. I'm wondering what the reality of this situation is. Or is that echo chamber that I'm currently in, is that actually a reflection of what you are seeing on the ground?

ALEXANDRIA HARRIS: Yes, we are seeing that. Students are fired up. They're ready to go out and vote. We're hearing just a groundswell of excitement about voting. Certainly, people are upset about what's happened with COVID, what's happening with the movement in general. And so, people are kind of toiling between, do I go to the streets, or do I vote? And we're telling people, yes, and.

SIBILE MARCELLUS: Now, Alexandria, I wanted to ask you about young voters. Do you think that they're motivated enough to go out to the polls? Because historically speaking, it's older voters that tend to show up. Younger voters talk about voting and excitement, but they don't necessarily show up in as many numbers as that.

So do you think that what we've seen so far in the election and the debates, there's been enough talk of issues that actually impact young Americans, for example, the forgiveness of student loans or some kind of financial relief in that sense?

ALEXANDRIA HARRIS: I think so. So, you know, we've seen, between 2014 and 2018, the largest growth in the voter population has been among young people. So certainly, young people do care. And all of these issues, climate, mass incarceration, race, equity, those are all things that young people care a lot about. And so, they've heard enough. They're ready to do their part, I believe, and certainly, the Andrew Goodman ambassadors are ready to go.

JEN ROGERS: So a lot of those ambassadors are on college campuses. Why are college campuses a place where we're seeing so much voter suppression right now? And I guess, I mean, do you-- in fact, you're working on the ground. Are we seeing more this election cycle and why the focus there?

ALEXANDRIA HARRIS: Well, I think it's-- and that's a great question. One of the things that, you know-- the fact that there's been such a doubling of the number of young people going to vote makes young people a big target for suppression. And some of our college campuses are broken into multiple voting precincts.

So the gerrymandering that we're seeing in communities of color is just magnified on college campuses. So it makes it incredibly confusing. Where do I vote? How do I vote? Can I vote? And then, of course, just couple that with COVID and the fact that so many students have been displaced.

So there's a real question of where they should vote. If they're initially on campus and that's where they're registered, but then they're forced out of the state, that, of course, affects how they're going to vote. So all of these complications are only magnified if you're a student.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, we will leave that there. Alexandria Harris, thank you so much for joining us on this incredibly important conversation. Alexandria Harris, executive director of the Andrew Goodman Foundation,

ALEXANDRIA HARRIS: Thank you.

KRISTIN MYERS: All right, well, we're going to take a quick break. And up next, we'll be chatting with Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson.