WABE host Lisa Rayam (right) is joined by political strategists Tharon Johnson (middle), a Democrat, and Republican Brian Robinson (left) at Georgia State University for a live tapping on Sept. 20, 2022. (Amariyah Callender/Fresh Take Georgia)

Georgia State University and the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies hosted a live taping of WABE’s Political Breakfast podcast for students, faculty, and WABE supporters in celebration of National Voter Registration Day earlier this month.

WABE host Lisa Rayam was joined by political strategists Tharon Johnson, a Democrat, and Republican Brian Robinson to discuss voting rights, student loan forgiveness and how candidates are targeting younger voters. 

“A lot of you feel like your voices aren’t being heard,” Lisa Rayam said to the audience of mostly college students.

Robinson, the Republican panelist, said younger voters need to “show up and vote.” He said there’s “never been a massive turnout amongst people 18 to 35” and that many policies aren’t directed toward benefitting the younger generation. “Do something about it,” he added.

“I’m very confident that the Democratic party has done an exceptional job of campaigning to voters between 18 and 29,” Johnson said. 

Out of over 7 million active voters, around 800,000 are between ages 18 to 24 as of December 2021, according to the Georgia Secretary of State’s Active Voter Report. All age groups are outnumbered by voters over 65. 

The panelists also discussed what young adults have said are important to them, including affordable housing, post-graduate student debt relief and the decriminalization of marijuana. 

Tharon Johnson networks with a Georgia State student after a live taping of ‘Political Breakfast’ at the university on Sept. 20, 2022. (Amariyah Callender/Fresh Take Georgia)
Brian Robinson (middle) speaks with Georgia State students after live taping of ‘Political Breakfast’ on the campus on Sept. 20, 2022. (Amariyah Callender/Fresh Take Georgia)

Students in attendance asked questions about this year’s election. 

“How will this new student loan forgiveness bill aim to initiative the outcome of local campaigns?” one student asked. Another asked if new voting laws would impact the outcome of the election. 

Students who are already politically engaged are more likely to attend events like the live podcast.

Outside the event hall, other students said politicians could do much more to reach young voters. Georgia State University seniors Lauryn Florentino and Mykaila Jackson said they believe social media is the key to bridging the gap. 

“I feel like a lot of politicians are older, the people who are running in political office,” said 21-year-old Florentino. “Even though they know social media is a big hit or miss with us, they don’t really act on it.”

“It’s all about wanting to build a personal connection with the people you’re advocating for,” added Jackson, also 21. 

Other students said they believe meeting young adults where they are is most effective. 

“It’s more than just going to a church and promoting your agenda,” said 25-year-old Agrilan Braxton, a graduate student in GSU’s political science program. “It’s getting out into the younger crowd. It’s going to where the younger crowds are,” he said. 

WABE’s Chief Content Officer Scott Woelfel said going out to the community and getting students politically involved is important. 

“We have a really diverse audience, so to be able to get out and see those people in person and hear what they’re talking about and what they’re doing, it’s really incredible,” he said.

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