Oct 11, 2021
Mississippi Votes starts with an awe-inspiring mission, the registration of 400,000 eligible unregistered residents, and then goes deeper. It is building a culture of civic engagement in Mississippi, where access to the ballot box is a high hurdle, from the archaic requirement to print, fill out and mail in registration forms to lifelong disenfranchisement for 23 categories of former offenders. Equally daunting is the disconnection that many Mississippians of color feel from civic life, a legacy of racism and marginalization. But the dynamic cohort of young people of color leading Mississippi Votes are reframing how voter registration, voting rights and civic engagement is done. Executive director Arekia Bennett explains that everything at Mississippi Votes starts with listening to the community and creating the infrastructure needed to support their aspirations. That includes a footprint on 17 college campuses where students are informing a policy agenda and shaping outreach strategies. Change is happening, from 30,000 people registered since 2018 to research and policy centering the restoration of voting rights. Listen to Arekia tell the story. She is powerful in the very best sense of the word.