Our National Director, Mike Burns, issued the following statement in response to Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson’s recent comments opposing the expansion of voting access for college students and young people:
“Secretary of State Watson’s comments opposing efforts to increase access to registration and voting for college students are deeply troubling and fundamentally anti-democratic. Young people have been, and continue to be, essential to the healthy functioning of our elections, turning out in record numbers across the country for recent federal and state elections, despite the unique barriers that make it more difficult for them to participate in our democracy."
“Particularly in Mississippi, with its long and painful history of Jim Crow laws that restricted the ability of Black people to vote, Sec. Watson’s use of racial dog-whistles like the words “woke” and “uneducated” to demonize young voters is all the more troubling. Young people and college students are the newest members of our self-governing democratic system, and our leaders should be doing everything they can to welcome and support them so that we can sustain a healthy and thriving nation. Without allowing and deeply encouraging youth participation in our elections, our democratic system will fail to properly represent all of its constituents."
“In just three months, our country will recognize the fiftieth anniversary of the ratification of the 26th Amendment, which protects against age discrimination in voting, lowered the minimum voting age to 18, and allowed millions of young people to have a voice in our democracy for the first time. At the time the nation was deeply divided over U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and young people, frequently unable to vote, were active on both sides of the issue, protesting and serving. On May 4, 1970, four students were killed at Kent State in Ohio protesting the war and a lack of voting rights. Just 11 days later, two more students were killed at Jackson State in Mississippi. Sec. Watson’s flippant comments disrespect the tremendous loss of life on both sides of this issue, which catalyzed the movement for the 26th Amendment. Our nation, and Sec. Watson, as the chief election official in Mississippi, should be striving to honor these sacrifices and uphold and expand these achievements, not roll them back."
“We hope that Secretary of State Watson will recognize the harmful nature of his comments and ensure that all people in Mississippi are able to exercise their fundamental right to vote.”