We watched in horror as the dark atrocities of January 6, 2021 unfolded in real time on American screens. Just months after the 2020 uprisings against police brutality, anger ran through us as we thought of the many lives lost over the years at the hands of authority for much less than what we saw that day. As young people of color, witnessing an insurrection at our nation’s Capitol compelled us to take action and protect our democracy with GenVote as Ascenders, the first and only national youth-led program dedicated to mobilizing thousands of young people to protect our democracy and leverage the power of the youth vote in critical secretary of state races in Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada.
This midterm cycle, our generation cannot be ignored and our votes will be vital for critical positions like secretary of state. In states like Arizona, Michigan, and Nevada, young people’s influence on election turnout has the great potential to sustain democracy as we know it or allow it to be changed into something unrecognizable.
Secretary of state responsibilities vary from state to state. For instance, Michigan’s secretary of state’s duties include overseeing vehicle registration and licensing drivers. In Arizona, the secretary of state is responsible for working with businesses to register trademarks and issue certificates of registration. But what these offices have in common in Arizona and Michigan is their management of elections. As the chief election official, the secretaries maintain the state’s voter databases, administer elections, and certify presidential election results. Depending on the person holding office, an election can run fairly and smoothly or be tampered with through unnecessary barriers for voters, such as voter ID laws, which disproportionately affect minority groups.
In the secretary of state races happening in Michigan and Arizona, both GOP nominees, Kristina Karamo and Mark Finchem respectively, do not believe Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election and were either at or had a misconception of the January 6 insurrection. Finchem was literally at the insurrection, while Karamo falsely claims that the insurrection was directed by “antifa” and that its members dressed up in MAGA gear to frame Trump supporters. Karamo and Finchem were both initial candidates of the America First coalition, an organization that seeks to restrict Americans’ voting rights by creating barriers between them and the polls. Also, they have both been endorsed by former president Donald Trump.
Even worse, both of these candidates hold beliefs that are deeply concerning and out of touch with our generation. Karamo has made transphobic and homophobic comments, calling transgender athletes “mentally ill adults playing dress up” and claiming that the normalization of homosexuality and premarital sex results in the normalization of pedophilia and bestiality. These claims are on a since-deleted YouTube video. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Karamo even suggested that abortion is “far more wicked than slavery” and “human sacrifice.” Meanwhile, Finchem reportedly created a “Treason Watch List” on Pinterest and shared a post alluding to stockpiling ammunition.