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Every vote counts in Mississippi, too!
Jackson, Miss. — September 27, 2004 — Young Mississippians aged 16-30 are coming together to hold the 2004 Youth Voting Rally Sept. 30, 2004, at Hal & Mal’s in downtown Jackson, Miss. The rally, sponsored by The Collective — a diverse group of civic-minded high school and college students — and the Jackson Free Press — the state’s only alternative newspaper — is an unusual celebration of the power of the vote for young people. The rally will encourage them speak up and be heard, regardless of race, background or political leaning.
Mississippi voters are virtually ignored by national candidates even though a Sept. 14-17 poll conducted by the American Research Group shows that the presidential race is actually much closer in Mississippi than many would guess, with Bush drawing 51 percent and Kerry 42 percent and 5 percent of voters undecided (4 percent margin of error). Young Mississippians are frustrated that no one seems interested in their vote, even as many have been working tirelessly, and without much recognition, to both get under-represented voters registered and then help motivate them to get to the polls in November. These young Mississippians believe their vote counts — and could even make a difference this year.
“It’s time that our voices are heard,” says Ayana Taylor, a 22-year-old Tougaloo College graduate and Jackson Free Press reporter. “We want the candidates to listen to us, and address issues that concern us. On Thursday night, we’ll be asking the questions.”
Nationally known rapper Kamikaze (a former Associated Press reporter) will emcee this free event, featuring the music of Storage 24 (rock), Atomic Brains (punk), Goodman County (alt-country), Kirk Kelly from New York City (alt-folk), DJs Phingaprint and Randy Perkins, and spoken-word poets from area colleges and high schools. A national representative from The League of Independent Voters will distribute materials and help rally voters. Participating speakers and candidates include representatives and candidates from Republican, Democratic, Green, Reform, Libertarian and Constitution parties.
“It’s not just about registration,” says co-organizer Brittany Barkley, 18, who recently started a Young Democrats chapter at her suburban high school. “It’s about motivation. It’s just ignorant not to exercise your right to vote.”
At the rally, candidates and party representatives will answer questions and give out materials, and Kamikaze will host a panel discussion with young representatives from different parties and colleges about issues young people care about. The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office will be on hand to help voters register to vote on-site and learn how to vote absentee. The JFP will give away free door prizes, and t-shirts co-produced by Blockwear and Chane (two nationally selling t-shirt designers: one black, the other white) will be available.
“We hear our young readers complain constantly that they don’t have a voice, that no one listens to them, that their vote doesn’t count. This problem is bad everywhere, but in Mississippi it’s epidemic,” says Jackson Free Press editor Donna Ladd. “Young Mississippians want to matter — and they are starting to speak out in an unprecedented way.”
She adds: “Pay attention to the Magnolia State. There’s something happening here.”
The rally is organized by a coalition of young Jacksonians: Rapper Kamikaze of Jackson; Millsaps Senior Casey Parks of The Collective and the Jackson Free Press; Brittany Barkley, a senior at Northwest Rankin High School; 2004 JSU graduate Ken Patterson of The Collective and the Jackson Free Press; 2004 Tougaloo graduate Ayana Taylor of the Jackson Free Press; Staxx, Blockwear t-shirt designer; and Chane, a Jackson businessman and designer.
Check jacksonfreepress.com and jxncollective.org for a complete schedule of bands and speakers as the list is finalized.
Mississippi fast facts:
- The state has the highest percentage of African-American residents of any state.
- There are more than 30,000 college students in Jackson, Miss., including two historically black colleges.
- The population of Mississippi: 2,881,281.
- There are 692,500 Mississippians between the ages of 18 and 35‹the majority of whom did not vote in the last two elections.
- The number of Mississippians who voted in the 2000 election: 993,571.
- The number of eligible Mississippi voters who did not vote in 2000: 1,074,495.
- The number of Mississippi voters separating Bush and Gore in 2000: 168,230.
- The votes separating incumbent Democrat Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and victorious Republican candidate Haley Barbour last fall: 60,617.