Young activists power National Voter Registration Day efforts in Southeast Michigan

By: - September 21, 2022 3:18 am

Detroit Department of Elections | Ken Coleman

Bilal Hammoud, 26, is a Dearborn Heights resident who was part of a national voter registration drive on Tuesday. He said that the effort has momentum and is “vital.” 

“Across the board in Michigan, it is critical that we are getting our citizens more involved — and the fundamental way to do that is and most impactful is through voting,” said Hammoud.  

He was one of many Michigan Millennials who organized on National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm election. 

NextGen America, the largest youth voter organization in the country, worked to register 18-35 year olds at Samaritan Center in Detroit on Tuesday. | NextGen America

Hammoud said affordable college tuition and student loan debt elimination policies; improving health care coverage; and addressing climate change are issues that resonate with young people. 

Rebeka Islam, executive director of Asian Pacific Islander American Vote (APIA Vote), said that her nonprofit and nonpartisan organization organized in several sites Southeast Michigan, including Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and in Warren in Macomb County. 

“It’s important that we stand up and go out and go vote,” said 28-year-old Islam. 

In Detroit, NextGen America, a progressive group and the largest youth voter organization in the country, worked to register 18-to-35-year-olds (both Millennials and Gen Z) at Samaritan Center located on the city’s lower east side. 

Ahead of November’s midterm elections, NextGen America is activating its base of 25,000 volunteers and more than 140 field organizers across eight key states to mobilize more than 9.6 million young voters.

“Every cycle, NextGen celebrates NVRD by registering thousands of young voters in a single day through in-person events, calls and texts, and digital activations. In 2020, NextGen America used NVRD as part of its overall voter registration efforts that registered more than 122,000 young people for the general election — contributing to the largest youth voter turnout in American history,” said Angela Ardis, Michigan NextGen America state director. 

NVRD was first celebrated in 2012. Ardis said the organization will release the final registration numbers on Thursday. 

Michigan officials also celebrated the effort to get new voters registered.

“Our democracy is at its best when everyone has a seat at the table,” said Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, a Democrat who is facing Republican Kristina Karamo on Nov. 8. “Michiganders now have more options than ever before to simply and safely register and cast their ballots. National Voter Registration Month is the perfect time to take the first step in exercising your constitutional right by registering to vote and learning more about how to participate in our elections.”

How you can register to vote

In Michigan, residents can register to vote in person up to 8 p.m. on Election Day at their city or township clerk’s office. Residents can also register online at Michigan.gov/Vote or by mail at least 15 days prior to an election. In the 14 days leading up to an election and on Election Day, voters must register in person to vote in the election, according to the Michigan Secretary of State office. 

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Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman

Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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