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Detroit youth want to see high voter registration, turnout

COVID-19 presents challenges but participation matters

Dillon Cathro wants people to vote. Young people. Black people. Brown people. All people.

Cathro is the director of youth organizing at 482forward, is a nonprofit organization in Detroit focused mainly on educational justice and on “creating a Detroit where every student graduates ready to become a fully engaged participant in the world,” according to its website. 482forward’s PACCT program is registering people to vote in order to encourage high voter turnout. The registrations are mainly through phone calls and happening from now until Nov. 3.

This election year, they began a new program called Political Action and Covid Crisis Intervention Team (PACCT) to help boost voter registration and ultimately, voter turnout. PACCT is partnered with United Neighborhood Initiatives, another nonprofit organization centered in Springwells Village in Southwest Detroit, to gain volunteers and get the word out. 

Cathro said many people in Detroit are either non-citizens and ineligible to vote, or they simply chose not to vote. 

482forward already had voting counselors established to help guide people through the voting process even before PACCT started. What made them want to start a new program solely to increase voter education and voter registration were two things: Low voter turnout in the past and COVID-19.

PACCT encourages voters to not be intimidated by voting despite COVID-19, and gives them options for how to vote, be it absentee, mail-in or in-person. Cathro said he encourages early voting due to the large amounts of inconsistencies that could happen on voting day: protests, long lines, large crowds, and possibly even fights amongst people of different views. 

Although 482forward is a nonprofit and can’t endorse a particular candidate, Cathro and his team want Black and brown voters to understand that every one of their votes matters. He said that voting is the “most consequential homework” voters have, and encourages them to do research and “vote for people who are in your best interest.”

And to those people who think that their vote doesn’t matter, Cathro said: “We have a system that is based on individualism ... (but voting is) a collectivist action.” 

He said he recognizes the existence of voter oppression for Black and brown people across the country, stating as examples immigrants who are residents but non-citizens and people in the island of Puerto Rico who cannot vote unless they are in the mainland, and yet are still affected by the decisions elected officials make. 

“Stand up and stand in solidarity with people who don’t have the right,” Cathro said.

Cass Tech senior Andy Morataya has been working with the PACCT Youth Coalition since it began in June. He practices phone banking to get in contact with potential voters, asks them if they’re eligible to vote, if they’ve registered, and if they need assistance registering to vote.

Although Morataya is under 18, he tries to help those who can vote by being a part of the PACCT Youth Coalition. 

“I try to get people... to understand that hey, voting is good, voting is useful, even if you believe it doesn’t change the presidential election,” Morataya said. 

He said he wants voters of all ages to not let themselves be swayed by just political ads.

“Research,” Morataya said. “Research all the pros but only cons, not only for the presidential election but also the senators...find out who aligns with your values.” Don’t let yourself be swayed just by political ads. 

Interested in learning how to register and vote? Visit the following websites for voting guidelines in Michigan:

Here are the following deadlines for voting in Michigan:

Online registration ended Oct. 19

Mail-in registration need to be postmarked by Oct. 19.

Request your absentee ballot by Oct. 30 by 5 p.m.

Return your absentee ballot by mail or in person by Nov. 3.

Early voting began Sept. 24, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live.

In Michigan, you can register to vote and vote on the same day. Michigan requires an ID to register, but not necessary for voting. A high school transcript counts as a valid ID. 


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