From protests to the polls: New push to get young people to vote launches in Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — With one month until election day, the focus is now on making sure voices are heard at the polls.

The Urban League of Greater Kansas City is taking their activism and protest momentum to the voting booths with a new focus on young people.

“Understand the process of moving from the protests to power. To move from protest to power, you must vote,” said Gwendolyn Grant, resident and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City. “Voting is important in every election, but certainly when you have a national election. That’s when electorate seems to be much more engaged and much more charged up.”

The campaign is called “Provoke the Vote” and will serve to educate, organize and mobilize Millennial and Generation Z voters to make their presence felt at the polls in the 2020 General Election. The group also wants these young voters to use their collective voices to drive institutional changes in Kansas City. 

“It’s labeled a campaign, but it’s also a movement. For every election that takes place in Kansas City, our young people show up at the ballot box and exercise their power,” Grant said. “We hope that they will show up in mass and vote, and they will vote their conscious and vote for those candidates who represent their policy concerns.”

Historically, getting young people to the vote has always been a challenge.

Students at UMKC said it could possibly stem from a disconnect between candidates and young voters or a lack of relatable outreach.

“I don’t think they are informed completely. So instead of making a rash decision, they don’t make one at all,” Molly Plas said.

“I feel that people can relate to people that are younger, maybe in their 40’s and 50’s maybe than someone older than that,” Lillie Fields said.

Campaigns in both major parties are using social media to reach students and younger voters. Tik Tok influencers are helping promote voter registration, and celebrities on Instagram are spreading voting information.

“Those public officials, people who are running, have failed to deliver a message that resonates with young people and strikes them where it matters to them,” Grant said. “We hope that they will show up in mass and vote.”

Throughout October, the Urban League with help from various partners, including Surge KC, Time 4 Justice, Chingona Collective and White Rose. They said they will go door-to-door to encourage voter engagement and create early voting initiatives.

The deadline to register to vote in Missouri is Oct. 7, and the deadline in Kansas is Oct. 13.

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