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Political activists speak to Grand Rapids youth about the power of voting

Man speaking to students in classroom
Bryce Huffman
Michigan Radio
Wesley Watson of NextGen America speaking to students at Covenant House Academy in Grand Rapids

A progressive advocacy group is urging young adults of color in Grand Rapids to register and vote in the upcoming primary election.

Wesley Watson is the West Michigan Regional Organizing Director for NextGen America, a nonprofit political advocacy group that focuses on progressive candidates and ballot initiatives.

Wesley spoke to several young adults at Covenant House Academy in Grand Rapids on Thursday about registering to vote. He says young voters are a significant portion of the population who can vote in this upcoming election.

“So we want to make sure they come out and vote, and we want to make sure we’re holding those elected officials accountable, and we’re making sure our voices are heard,” Watson said.

Watson says he wants to make sure first time voters know about the new voting rules in Michigan. Things like no excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration.

West Michigan, and Grand Rapids specifically, have had numerous environmental issues come about in the last four years.

Things like PFAS contaminated drinking water, lead paint exposure, and toxic air pollution have all affected communities around the city. Because of these issues, Watson says youth of color in the city have a lot to fight for in this upcoming election.

“We want to make sure they are utilizing their voices and they’re letting elected officials know that ‘hey, this issue is happening in our community, what are you going to do to change that,’” he said.

He says getting young people to vote can make a huge difference in local, state, and national politics.

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