RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) — Less than a week until Election Day, students from Shaw University and Saint Augustine’s University teamed up for a march to the polls event.
Students gathered on Shaw’s campus Thursday morning, before making the 1/2 mile trek to Chavis Park, one of 15 early voting locations in Wake County.
“We’re not red, we’re not blue, we are purple. That’s what we’re trying to get everyone to understand, especially the younger generation. To help make decisions that are going to help benefit not just themselves, but the entire general population. It’ll help benefit them. Their children, their children’s children. It’s about laying the foundation right now, and it has to start with us, the young generation,” said Zachary Barco, a senior at Saint Augustine’s who serves as Student Government Association President.
Data compiled by Catawba College Political Science Professor Dr. Michael Bitzer found that through Monday, fewer than 4% of early voters were part of Generation Z, those who are 18 to 25 years old.
“The needs for the younger generation are different than the needs for the older generation. So we need someone who can cater to us,” said Robert Sheppard III, a junior at Shaw who is part of the Student Government Association.
Thursday’s event featured music from The Platinum Sounding Marching Band at Shaw University, and speeches from faculty. It was organized by leadership at both schools, and voting rights groups Common Cause North Carolina, the New North Carolina Project, North Carolina Black Alliance and Black Voters Matters. Barco, a member of the Phi Sigma Beta fraternity, referenced member and late Congressman John Lewis, about the responsibility of exercising your voice.
“We want to kind of show our commitment to performing our civic duty, especially as Black Americans here. The civil rights movement, how long it took for us to get voting rights,” Barco said.
Through Monday, Black voters comprised nearly 19% of all ballots cast, slightly below the 22% of the population they comprised.
Students shared issues they’d like to see elected officials address.
“One of the things I’d love to hear from politicians is for them to focus on HBCUs more. Focus more on the culture, and embracing our culture, funding,” said Dave Walters Jr., a sophomore at Shaw who is part of the university’s Student Government Association.
“I would like to hear people speak about just division, and what they’re going to do to fix it,” added Malik Bryant, a senior at Saint Augustine’s University.
Voter turnout is just over 20% thus far; in Wake County, nearly 160,000 ballots have been cast through Wednesday. Saturday is the final day of early voting.