As a black woman passionate about politics, and aware of the challenges minorities face when it comes to voting, junior Briana Miles feels that it is her duty to vote in order to make change in this country. That's why she co-founded VoteSC, a campus organization dedicated to encouraging students to register to vote.
"People of color and women of color are two groups I'd say are really marginalized in politics. I feel like, it's one of our tools to make change," she said at an event. "If there is a problem you see in the world and you want to make change, voting is one of the tools."
USC Dornsife's Center for the Political Future lead a conversation via Facebook live with USC students and VoteSC founders about first-time voting on Tuesday. The event, "Virgin Voters: The 2018 Midterm Elections," covered everything that first-timers need to know, from tips on voting to what to expect when you get to the polling places.
Kennedy Lollis, an 18-year-old freshman at USC studying international relations and global business is one of those first time voters. As a black woman voter, she wants to see more people of color in office.
"As a minority, we feel like our votes don't count as much so that's all the reason more to vote, to get those who represent minorities in office," said Lollis. "This could affect my type of person specifically. So it's important to be a part of voting and making sure the people who represent me are in office."
The anticipation to vote in this year's midterm elections has skyrocketed for first-time voters. With social media engagement, political movements and the persuasiveness of celebrities, a record-breaking number of 18- and 19-year-olds—63 percent—are ready to cast their ballots on Nov. 6.
Since 2012, black women, who played a key role in President Obama's re-election, have voted at a higher rate than any other group. Since then, the number of women of color registered to vote has had a dramatic increase, according to the Center for American Progress.
2018 is not only a record year for black women voters, but also black women running in elections all over the country. With a record number of 400 black women running for office this year, many have the opportunity to achieve historic firsts if elected. Stacey Abrams, who is running in Georgia, aiming to make history as the first black female governor in the country. With 435 seats in the U.S. House up for grabs, there are currently 18 black women competing for a congressional seat—the most there has ever been in one election.
For Miles, seeing people who come from similar backgrounds as her in politics is worth celebrating.
"It's nice to see people in politics that look like me. Black women are really making a push," she said. "And I think that's great across all communities, because the more we see people who look like us the more we're encouraged to get involved, and the more our voices are different and unique compared to the mainstream."
If we take a look back at history, black women have always fought for their voting rights. While the ratification of the 19th Amendment, gave the right to vote to women in all states, Black women, however, still faced discriminatory barriers in some Southern states up through the 1960s. For Mecca McGlaston, another black woman studying at USC and first-time voter, exercising that right is meaningful.
"It took awhile for black people to have the right to vote, so I want to utilize that privilege that I have," said McGlaston.
McGlaston, a junior track and field runner, is hoping that society will view millennials in a different light for their active participation in this year's elections.
"This generation gets such a bad reputation for screwing up things that happen in society. I want to break that barrier and have a say so while I can," she said.
Some viewers who watched the Virgin Voter event were concerned with what happens after they vote. Miles advised those who are concerned with the turn out after Nov. 6 to continue to pay attention to what their elected officials are doing.
"There's an election every two years. It doesn't stop if we don't get the turn out we want. The election is just one thing," said Miles. "Write letters to your senators and call them. It's super important to hold them accountable. As I said before, there's many tools in the toolbox, just figure out what you want and go for it."