‘Democracy has no off season:’ Democracy Festival targets young voters of color

By Noé Washington | The Voice of Atlanta

“Democracy has no off season.” Those words are the resounding slogan of Democracy Fest, a field day for the Atlanta public school system designed to encourage voter turnout among eligible students.

“It was an opportunity to involve my peers in the voting process, many of us as young people get discouraged and feel like our vote doesn’t matter or don’t even know that we can be part of the process even before we turn 18, so I think this is a great opportunity for people to learn,” said Quentin Carter, 18, a senior at South Atlanta High School.

Low voter turnout, especially in the black community, and especially among young voters, is not a new conversation.

Among 18- to 29-year-olds, voter turnout rose from 20% in 2014 to 36% in 2018, the biggest percentage point increase for any age group — a jump of 79%, according to data from the US Census Bureau.

This could be a result of the Trumpian political era, but as youth voting increased, black turnout decreased. Black voter turnout fell for the first time in 20 years in a presidential election, falling to 59.6% in 2016 after hitting a record high of 66.6% in 2012, according to data from Pew Research.

So, to fight this Democracy Fest was born. Filled with games, rides and live performances (this year’s performance was with popular hip-hop artist, Quavo from The Migos). Democracy Fest was not just about voting, it was also about advancing students in their academic fields. Lining the yard were several tents, where representatives were posted to guide students to what was available after high school.

“The Democracy Festival is part of a corporate and nonprofit collaboration, beginning with the Arthur Blank Corporation and others who are committed to ensuring that our students experience the democratic process, but they also experience the importance of civic engagement,” said Atlanta Public Schools. Superintendent Dr. Lisa Herring.

“We think that can happen in a space where there can also be fun, because they are academics and they enter this journey. We think it also changes their long-term thinking with voting,” Herring said.

Enthusiastic youth turnout could make for an interesting midterm election in 2022.

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