Activate 85 Working to Get Voters to the Polls


September 20th, 2016

Jesse Statham is one of the founding members of Activate 85. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

Jesse Statham is one of the founding members of Activate 85. (Photo by Ryan Robertson, KVNO News)

In the 2014 general election, 85 percent of registered voters in Omaha’s 2nd District did not vote. Earlier this year, we told you about the group Activate 85, whose mission is to get that 85% voting again. KVNO Senior Radio Correspondent Ryan Robertson recently sat down with one of the group’s founding members.

Jesse Statham is one of Activate 85’s founding members. Earlier this year, his group held a series of three forums with the purpose of educating voters in North Omaha about what will be on the ballot in November.

“The participation and attendance at those forums increased as the word spread and knowledge of the actual forums and what the forums were doing got out amongst the people in  the community,” Statham said. “Since then, the idea of informing the voters about the importance of them voting has spread to other groups and entities who have been primarily interested in the past in registering voters. Once people are registered, there is another activity that must take place, and that’s actually going to the polls or casting your ballot in another means. So that’s where our focus was; getting people to actually follow through on the electoral process and casting their votes.”

Some of those other groups Activate 85 caught the eye of include the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, as well as the Black Votes Matter group. Statham said Activate 85 is non-partisan, so he doesn’t really care who people vote for or how, just as long as they vote.

Statham said, “We’re trying to push the point that voters should inform themselves about the candidates that are running to represent them in the various offices and also inform themselves about the issues that are being put forth to the voters to make a decision on. Our focus mainly is on information; insuring that the voters have the information so they can cast a more intelligent vote.”

Statham said while presidential elections tend to create more excitement amongst voters, Activate 85 is trying to downplay or de-emphasize the presidential race this year, and get voters in Omaha’s 2nd District to focus on local elections instead.

“Because the things that people are concerned with the most are impacted the most by state, county, and local officials,” Statham said. “We’re really trying to get the voters more interested in those candidates at those levels who actually impact their daily life in a more significant way than a presidential election. Of course a presidential candidate or person who holds the office of President of the United States is important, we recognize that, but the bread and butter issues that people are concerned with on a day-to-day basis are more impacted by other officials.”

Statham said some of those “bread and butter” issues include how much people pay in local taxes, access to public transportation, and the condition of neighborhood streets and roads. Statham said in his mind, one of the most important issue facing Nebraskans in November is whether or not the state  should have the death penalty.

“Voters have their position on it, they’re either for or against it, but I encourage everyone to learn how you’re going to express your position in casting your vote,” he said. “You need to know what the wording is on the ballot and how that wording is going determine which box you’re going to check on the ballot. Talk about it with other people, discuss it with whomever, call the various places where you get your political information from, things like that. Just inform yourself about the issues and also about the candidates so you can cast a more intelligent vote.”

Statham says he is confident more registered voters living in Omaha’s second district will cast their vote come Election Day 2016, which is now just seven weeks away.

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