Abdul El-Sayed youth vote Photo by Franz Knight
Michigander Dr. Abdul El-Sayed says he wants youth to be encouraged to have their votes "respected and embraced."

Michigan’s renowned physician, epidemiologist, and progressive activist talks about the realities of voting and who is most affected by decisions made at the polls.

LANSING, Mich.—Local youth and other first-time voters are in position to decide which way Michigan will swing once election results are certified.

“You’ve got to make sure that your voice is heard,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed said to Michigan’s young people during an interview with The ‘Gander. “But also that it is respected and embraced.”

El-Sayed is a physician, epidemiologist, and progressive activist. Now in his thirties, he says the decisions made today are not about his own generation.

“The decisions that are being made actively right now in the halls of power are the decisions that are going to affect young people the most,”he said. “[Youth] have the longest stake in the future of this country.”

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Michiganders across the state are working to engage and mobilize the young people who could ultimately decide who represents them in the State House, the US House, and in the White House.

For example, Michigan State University hosts approximately 50,000 students. The 2016 general election was decided by 10,704 votes in Michigan, according to a Bridge report.

“The youth vote is going to make or break this election,” Lateshia Parker told WZZM Grand Rapids. “Social media, we’re going to be doing virtual class presentations, we’re going to have thoughtful and engaging digital events and that’s the same thing we would have done if students were in class.”

Parker is press secretary for Next Gen Michigan, a group born out of a desire to address climate change that is now dedicated to mobilizing the youth vote. Other Michigan-based organizations like are working to encourage local youth to register and vote in the election.

“So many people registered to vote in the primary,” Sirrita Darby, executive director of Detroit Heals Detroit, told The ‘Gander. “But they didn’t actually go vote.”

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Her youth-led organization is one of several local groups partnering with Black Girls Vote and the Party at the Mailbox initiative to encourage Detroit youth and first-time voters to exercise their rights at the polls.

El-Sayed, who has already voted in the 2020 election, says thoughts of his daughter helped fuel his vote for Joe Biden.

“[She’s] ethnically half Egyptian, ethnically half Indian, 100% American, growing up in a Muslim household. She was born under a president Trump that will always be a stain on the America that she was born into,” he said.

El-Sayed says his own household’s diversity is indicative of the country’s, calling Michigan “a microcosm of America.” He says that kind of diversity can position voters to make powerful decisions at the polls.

“We have a responsibility to lift our voices so make a plan, do your duty in voting in the most important election in modern American history.”

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