Vice President Kamala Harris urges student leaders at Claflin College in Orangeburg, S.C., to register to vote Tuesday on National Voter Registration Day. Photo by Sean Rayford'/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 20 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris urged students at two historically black colleges in South Carolina to register to vote Tuesday, marking National Voter Registration Day exactly seven weeks before November's midterm elections.
During her remarks at Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C., Harris, who was joined by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, touched on the importance of college and students' new role as voters.
"It is a phase of life where individuals start to develop and decide who they are in relation to the world -- and certainly in relation to their nation," Harris said.
"And so when I think about that and I think about the last big election we had in 2020, I'm proud to report what you all know, which is that over 50% -- over half of the people in our country, who at the time were between 18 and 24 years old, voted," Harris told the students. "Over half. It was a record high."
Harris urged students at the S.C. State University Fall Convocation Tuesday to also register as soon as possible.
"Our nation needs your leadership. Today we live in uncertain times," Harris said.
"Domestically, we thought long-settled would be the freedom of voters to decide elections. Long-settled we thought the freedom of women to make decisions about their own future," Harris said. "We thought we could take for granted what constitutes the truth. But these ideals now hang in the balance and in moments of great crisis, our nation has almost every time turned to our young leaders to help guide us forward."
In addition to speaking on the importance of voting, Harris also discussed issues important to young voters including mental health.
"We've got to stop acting that the body starts from the neck down. We also need health care from the neck up, and there should be no stigma about that, and people should not be made to silently suffer," Harris said.
Harris talked about student loan forgiveness and how young voters view the high cost of a college education.
"They said they wanted to see college be more affordable, which includes they could graduate from college, leave college not being unduly burdened by student loan debt," Harris said. "So the President just signed an order that says that students will have $10,000 of their college loan debt relieved. And if they're a Pell Grant recipient, that would be $20,000."
Harris pointed to the racial wealth gap in America as college students head into the work force, and also discussed their role in leadership as the world tackles climate change.
"This crisis that is called climate change is real, that the leaders from years before have probably sold us short in terms of taking it seriously, understanding the urgency of it," Harris said. "And we want leadership that will accelerate the resources we put into saving this precious planet."
The White House promoted Tuesday's National Voter Registration Day with a proclamation of President Joe Biden's executive order, signed in March 2021, that includes a "motor-voter" law allowing state motor vehicle offices to register voters and an increase to the number of languages on vote.gov. The proclamation also touted a plain-language guide outlining each state's voting rules for individuals with criminal convictions.
"In celebration of National Voter Registration Day, let us honor the heroes who fought to secure voting rights and expand them," Biden wrote in a statement. "I call on all eligible Americans to ensure that their registration is up to date and to encourage their family, neighbors and friends to do the same."