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Biden Campaign Shifts Focus To Black Youth Outreach

Signs and pamphlets for guests at the Sweets & Swag event.
Blaise Gainey
Signs and pamphlets for guests at the Sweets & Swag event.

In the final days of early voting, the Biden Campaign has turned its focus toward getting young Black voters to the polls. Experts say that demographic is one of the least likely to vote.

Near Florida A&M University, the Biden campaign hosted an event called Sweets & Swag. Carrington Whigham is a FAMU Student, and HBCU fellow for the Biden Campaign.

“We’re making sure that everyone has to get out and vote. And of course, everyone wants to and sometimes we hear some excuses. But I think that the climate on our campus is you have to vote, you are nothing without your vote," said Whigham.

As of Thursday morning, nearly 1,800 ballots have been cast at the polling site on FAMU’s campus. There are a little more than 1,300 students living in campus housing. While not all are registered in Leon County, freshman Nyla Sams is.

“I live in Texas and it’s kind of guaranteed red. And even more so Vice President Mike Pence said himself that Leon County was a swing county for Florida state," said Sams. "So not only was it convenience because I just walked to the quad to vote but also I was going to have the greatest impact here.”

Sams is one of the 51,000 Black 18 to 23-year-olds in Florida who have cast a ballot in this election. University of Florida Political Science Professor Dan Smith believes that's a fair amount.

"That’s a good sign that they’re getting these folks out to vote but there are obviously hundreds of thousands of 18 to 23-year-olds who have yet to vote," said Smith.

He says there are around 147 thousand Black 18 to 23-year-olds who have registered to vote but not cast a ballot. Meaning only around 1 of 4 have voted so far. Adrienne Shropshire the Director for Black PAC, a group focused on engaging black voters, says 18 to 23-year-olds are known to vote during the eleventh hour.

"Oftentimes younger voters are mostly inclined to vote in person and so the work [that] needs to happen is to ensure that they get out during these last few days of early vote," said Shropshire. "But also that we make sure that we’re doing what we need to do to get them turned out for election day if they don’t make the early vote period."

West Park Democratic Rep. Shevrin Jones is running for state Senate District 35. He urged a group of Biden Campaign phone callers to stress the importance of voting early.

"We can’t wait ‘til the last minute anymore. Those individuals who still have ballots in their hand when you call them, encourage them to take it to their early voting location because that’s what needs to happen right now," said Jones. "For those people who are still contemplating whether or not they are going to wait until voting day, ask them what’s the wait."

The campaign is hoping to reach out to voters who might otherwise put it off and potentially forget to vote. Recently elected Tallahassee City Commissioner Jack Porter ran her campaign with an aggressive push toward social media and communications engagement. She feels the repeated text and calls worked in her favor.

"There were people who I called and I texted numerous times and I was so worried I was annoying them and that it wasn’t making a difference," said Porter. "And there were many of them who came back to me later I mean people I’ve never met who said, all those 5 texts reminding me to get out and vote it made all the difference."

That’s similar to the strategy the Biden Campaign and his supporters are using in the final days before the election. Smith believes that it’s a smart strategy.

"If younger voters are only turning out 35-40% in their cohort, and you get it up to 50 or 55% that’s a victory," said Smith. "Especially for the Democratic Party because younger voters are disproportionately are more likely to be registered as Democrat and most likely vote for the Democratic nominee."

Smith says it’s not only Black 18 to 23-year-olds that need the push. Only 1 in 5 Black voters ages 24 to 29 have cast a ballot. While they’ve cast close to 2,000 more ballots than the younger group, they have 50,000 more voters.

Overall close to 850,000 African Americans in Florida have voted this election, while close to 1.2 million still haven’t.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.