TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Tampa Voices Matter is a new organization on a mission to get more young and minority voters to the polls this election season.
Back in June, a few Tampa Bay business owners began discussing the election season on a Facebook post.
“They said who should I vote for, who should I vote for? So we just had a meeting to really answer those questions,” Shalone Barnett said.
That meeting blossomed into various forums, workshops and events involving the community and candidates running for local offices.
“We’re trying to get the voters excited,” Stephanie Foster said. “We are giving the candidates a platform to speak on to tell them about themselves.”
“It is the local we need to pay attention to,” Barnett said. “The local is really where we get the results and get the things we need done.”
Barnett and Foster helped form Tampa Voices Matter. The organization is working to educate young and minority voters about elections and candidates.
“One, we are minority so they have someone to look up to and say if they can do it, I can do it,” Foster said.
According to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections in 2016, the overall voter turnout was about 72%. There were 849,943 eligible voters. A total of 609,313 people voted in the 2016 general election. Taking a closer look at the breakdown in voters; there was a 76% voter turnout for white voters compared to 66% for Black voters.
Tampa Voices Matter is trying to change this narrative.
“What they are looking at, they might not agree with or can relate to but it’s very imperative to get out and vote,” Foster said.
The non-partisan group is bringing candidates to the community through workshops and forums. They hope their efforts lead to an increase in voter turnout.
“We thought about the issues the youth face with not knowing who the candidates are,” Barnett said. “When they don’t know who the candidates are they don’t show up to vote.”
The groups efforts are leaving lasting impacts on voters.
“This is important that we come together, talk about the issues and be able to not debate but just relate to the issues going on,” Salon Owner and TVM event attendee, Micheline Barber, said. “A lot of times we see it on paper but it’s one thing to really see the person and see their passion and desires.”
The group is even partnering with other non-partisan groups like Ballot Defenders, who have the same goal.
“We want to educate voters, make sure they understand their ballot, make sure they are registered to vote and just be out there in the community to raise awareness regarding the civic duty to go out and vote,” said Dolly Ferraiuolo with Ballot Defenders.
Tampa Voices Matters’ efforts don’t just stop after Nov. 3. They plan to bring the candidates who get elected back to the table next year and hold them accountable for what they told voters they would do if elected.
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