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Youth in US protested by the thousands, but will they vote? | News

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Washington, DC – Young people across the United States flooded the streets of their cities and towns in unprecedented numbers to denounce the killing of George Floyd, demand reforms to policing and calling for an end to systemic racism in the country. 

Whether this will translate into a higher turnout in the November presidential election is still up in the air, experts say. But there are signs that this year, young voters are more energised about making their voices heard.

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“There is no lack of enthusiasm or engagement, there is a distinct feeling that the system and the political leaders in that system have failed us,” said Alex Butcher-Nesbitt, deputy press secretary at NextGen America, an organisation that seeks to encourage young people to vote.

“There is a huge power in numbers, we see that on the streets now and we will see it at the polls in November,” Butcher-Nesbitt told Al Jazeera. Young adults, those aged 18-44 make up 39 percent of eligible voters, and could make a substantial difference in the presidential race, especially in crucial swing states.

Historically in the US, voters less than 30 years old have shown up at the polls in lower numbers than older voters. But there are indications this could change in 2020.

Last week, Rock the Vote, a nonprofit organisation that assists and encourages young people to vote, said more than 80,000 new voters registered through their website last week – the most registrations the group has experienced in a single week this election cycle.

Lafayette

Demonstrators gathered in front of the fence surrounding Lafayette Park outside the White House in Washington, DC [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters/Daylife]

For nearly three weeks, dozens of young people have gathered in the evenings in the newly-named Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House. The place has become symbolic in downtown Washington, DC of the protesters’ demand for justice for Floyd, an unarmed Black man who died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Not the ideal candidate

A young man with a loudspeaker leads the chants, “Black Lives Matter”, “No justice, no peace, no racist police” – the leading demands during the protests.

“I want my voice to be heard and I want there to be a change,” said Lany, 20, who did not wish to give her last name. Lany said she initially supported Bernie Sanders, a self-described Democratic socialist who ended his campaign in April, and endorsed the presumptive nominee Joe Biden.

Lany says although Biden is not her ideal candidate, she will still vote for the Democrat.

“While I don’t like the two candidates that are running, there’s clearly one that’s better than the other,” she said, “I would rather have my voice heard and do my duty than just let Trump – who is a fascist – run our country.”

Recent polls show that Trump, who adopted a hardline approach to the protests and threatened to deploy the US military to quell violent dissent, is unpopular among young people, putting him at political risk.

In a survey conducted by YouGov on June 10-11, 26 percent of voters aged 18-29 said they support Trump, compared with 59 percent of voters who said they back Biden.

Biden’s campaign has not made significant changes to its youth outreach amid the protests, but in a recent virtual fundraiser, he said he believed the protests will energise young people to turn out for him.

“Now they are engaged,” Biden said. “They feel it. They taste it. And they’re angry and they’re determined.”

Swing states

The young vote may prove crucial in a race that is expected to be focused on several highly contested swing states.

“Given Trump’s lead in key swing states, the only way Biden is going to win is if we see a massive uptick in turnout,” said Jim Manley, a Democratic strategist and former leadership aide in the US Senate.

“No young person can look at the events in the last couple of months and not march to the polls and vote for Biden,” Manley told Al Jazeera. “He is going to show young people that he is a strong principled alternative to the chaos that is coming out of this White House.”

But for some protesters, animosity towards Trump will not be enough to push them to vote for Biden.

“I really don’t care for any of the candidates that are running for office right now. I think they are the same,” said Dion, 37, who did not want to provide his last name.

He said he has been participating in every protest in Washington, DC since they began on May 29, and has no plans to stop showing up. “I don’t have any love for Biden, I wouldn’t vote for him,” he said.

Joe Biden Philadelphia

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaking about President Donald Trump’s response to protests across the US during an event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Biden has rejected calls to “defund the police,” which has become a rallying cry for protesters.  “I don’t think the police should be defunded,” Biden said in an op-ed on Wednesday. “The better answer is to give police departments the resources they need to implement meaningful reforms, and to condition other federal dollars on completing those reforms,” he wrote.

Observers say, for many protesters, Biden’s position on these key issues may reassure his base of older and moderate voters, but will not satisfy younger people who want to see meaningful change.

“Biden has got to recognise that this energy does not automatically transfer to being an anti-Trump vote,” said Cliff Albright, a co-founder of the Black Voters Matter Fund, “it’s gotta be earned,” Albright told Al Jazeera.

Biden’s response to the protests has been “tone deaf”, Albright adds. 

Youth vote cover

Three men posing in front of the White House in Washington, DC while holding signs reading ‘I’m a Black man, please don’t shoot’ and ‘Justice for Breonna Taylor’ [Jihan Abdalla/Al Jazeera]

Trump’s policies had already heightened interest among young voters, and the vote is a referendum on the president, said John Della Volpe, director of polling at Harvard University’s Kennedy Institute of Politics.

“We were on our way to a significant turnout among young people because of Trump,” Della Volpe told Al Jazeera, “Now, there are two additional factors, COVID and these protests.”

“It is now up to Biden,” Della Volpe said. “If he is able to meet the moment and transfer much of the energy of those who wouldn’t normally vote and say we can change this country faster, more substantively if you both protest and you vote.”

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US House delivers Trump impeachment article to Senate | Politics News

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The US House of Representatives has presented its article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate, a step that formally sets in motion the Senate trial against the former United States president.

Walking from one side of the US Capitol to the other, nine House managers appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi hand-delivered the impeachment document to the Senate on Monday evening.

The article charged Trump with “incitement of insurrection” in relation to the deadly storming on January 6 of the US Capitol building in Washington, DC by a mob of his supporters.

The House impeached Trump on January 13 on the same charge – making him the first president in US history to be impeached twice.

Monday’s formal step kickstarts the trial phase of the impeachment process, in which all 100 senators will sit as jurors to hear evidence and legal arguments from House managers, who act as prosecutors in the case, and the former president’s defence team.

To be convicted, the Senate must secure a two-thirds majority on the impeachment charge.

If that happens, a subsequent vote could bar Trump from running for public office again in the future.

Trial to start in February

Senate Democratic and Republican leaders have agreed on a timeline for the trial, which is expected to begin during the week of February 8.

“Both the House managers and the former president’s counsel will have a period of time to draft their legal briefs, just as they did in previous trials,” Senate leader Chuck Schumer said in remarks to the chamber on Monday.

“Once the briefs are drafted, presentations by the parties will commence the week of February 8th,” he said.

Senators will be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday and a summons will be sent by the Senate to the former president, requiring him to answer the article of impeachment.

Trump has been initially defiant amid accusations he incited the Capitol mob in a speech he gave before the breach and in repeated false claims that the presidential election had been stolen from him.

Before the House vote to impeach him, Trump had said his speech to the January 6 rally of his supporters was “totally appropriate”.

Senator Patrick Leahy, the president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over former President Donald Trump’s second impeachment trial [Joshua Roberts/Reuters]

Senator Patrick Leahy, a senior Democrat who holds the title of president pro tempore of the Senate, will preside over the trial instead of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts.

“When presiding over an impeachment trial, the president pro tem takes an additional oath to do impartial justice according to the Constitution and the laws,” Leahy said in a statement.

“It is an oath I take extraordinarily seriously,” he said.

Republicans divided

Republicans are divided over the impeachment, with some senators saying Trump should be held accountable for the Capitol riot and others fearing a conviction of the former Republican president could be damaging for the party.

Some Republican legislators have argued that holding an impeachment trial after Trump has left office is unconstitutional – a claim that has been rejected by Democrats and some US experts.

Al Jazeera’s Heidi Zhou-Castro, reporting from Washington, DC, said on Monday that some Republicans have also said the trial could further divide the country.

“Democrats, to counter that, have said that in order to get to unity, as everyone is calling for, first there must be accountability,” Zhou-Castro said.

“And they’re saying that if Trump were to indeed be guilty of inciting insurrection and simply leave office and not be held accountable, then that would set a dangerous precedent.”

Democrats will need to get more than a dozen Republicans to vote in favour of impeachment to get a conviction, as Democrats only have a slim majority in the chamber.

Trial timeline, procedure

House managers and Trump’s defence team will exchange legal briefs in the days leading up to the start of the trial.

The nine House managers will be led in the trial by Representative Jamie Raskin, a constitutional scholar and leading advocate in the House for charging Trump with insurrection after the January 6 attacks.

The House managers have retained lawyers Barry Berke and Joshua Matz to help support their prosecution of the case.

Both Berke and Matz participated in the first Senate impeachment trial against Trump in 2020, which involved charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice for his attempts to pressure the government of Ukraine.

Pro-Trump protesters stormed the US Capitol on January 6 [File: Shannon Stapleton/Reuters]

For his part, Trump has retained Butch Bowers of South Carolina, an experienced trial lawyer who has previously represented politicians.

House managers will have until February 2 to file their pre-trial brief laying out the case for conviction. Trump’s defence counsel will have the same deadline to respond to the charge, the Reuters news agency reported.

February 8 is the next deadline for Trump’s legal team to file a response to the House brief, and for the House managers to file a response to the president’s answer to the article of impeachment.



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