As local elections begin to open, we took the time to hear from three community organizers who are committed to boosting education and involvement in the local voting process, specifically among young voters. Georgia Tech alumnus Kevin Shanker Sinha is the founder of CivicGeorgia, a BIPOC-led grassroots advocacy organization powered by a collaborative of organizers. Sophia Woodrow is a rising second-year at Stanford University and currently serves as a Community Manager at Future Coalition, helping to coordinate electoral coalition building plans across the country for the 2022 midterm elections. Ciarra Malone is a Georgia State Coordinator at Campus Vote Project and a recent alumna of Kennesaw State University who works to create equity for marginalized communities through policy, organizing, activism, and law. Together, these three community influencers gave a powerful message to their listeners.
Q: What is going on in our society as far as elections are concerned?
Kevin: Municipal elections are this fall. The issues we care about most closely are most directly affected by local governing bodies.
Sophia: We need to empower young people, even students, to participate in both the running and voting processes.
Ciarra: Youth turnout has been the highest it’s been in the last two years. Many people are talking about municipal elections. It’s very easy to type in your address and figure out how and where to vote (ballotpedia.com is a great resource). These local roles are where we will see the most active change and where community members can find the most direct interaction with their representatives.
Q: What are some of the most significant changes you’ve seen in the local elections?
Sophia: Young people are seeing the importance of student representation. School is where the learning, and sometimes even indoctrination, occurs regarding racial and income inequality.
Q: Do you think your generation really believes voting matters? How can we support them?
Ciarra: Within the last year, youth turnout in elections was the highest it’s ever been. It’s important to provide a seat at the table.
Sophia: The main cause for young people, not voting is a lack of knowledge of information such as registration deadlines and how to mail in a ballot as an out-of-state student. This process is not covered well in schools.
Kevin: We all have an opportunity and responsibility to empower young voters. That may be where the gap has previously been, rather than a lack of care about the issues from young voters. Faculty members, GRAs, administrators have a role in this. Help students with the practical education of the voting process by providing simple reminders about deadlines, voting sites, etc., and be mindful of class scheduling if it conflicts with voting days. You are in a position of authority from which you can empower student voters.
Q: What are some of the big issues we face getting students registered to vote and at the polls?
Ciarra: Getting home to the correct voting precinct or registering for absentee voting ahead of time is challenging for students. Helping students develop a plan to vote at least a month ahead of time is crucial. If they’re not presidential elections, students often are not aware that the elections are going on. Students who go to a public university can use their school IDs (just be careful since a signature on the ID is often required).
Sophia: Encourage students not only to vote, but go work at the polls, work at a phone bank, and bring friends along.
Kevin: Poll workers are typically older. We want voters to see people working the polls that they can identify with. Try poll-working out, it’s a paid position! If you run into a challenge when you go to the polls, don’t be discouraged. Maintain an open mind and do your best to reasonably work through it. Call or text the election protection hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
There is a message for listeners of all ages and positions here. If you are in a position of leadership in your community, make every effort to help guide young voters through the process. If you are a young voter, start planning early as both local and national elections approach. Reach out when you need help and don’t be discouraged by the process. You can find helpful information on all three of the panelists’ organization websites.
This Impact event was supported by our partners at Serve-Learn-Sustain.
Everything you need to know about voting in ATL (candidates, upcoming events, voting guides, and more) https://voteatl.org/
Learn about candidate platforms and walk through the ballot: https://www.branch.vote/
- Sign up for election reminders: https://www.vote.org/election-reminders/
- Need an absentee ballot? Fill out the form found on this site: https://www.vote.org/absentee-ballot/
- Check to see if you are registered to vote in Georgia https://registertovote.sos.ga.gov/GAOLVR/welcome.do
- Find your sample ballot here https://ballotpedia.org/Sample_Ballot_Lookup
If you live in Georgia, check out CivicGeorgia for Voter & Advocacy resources as well as information on registering to become a poll worker.
Check out the national network, Future Coalition, for training, tools, and events that can help you get a youth-led organization up and running.
Check out the Campus Vote Project if you are interested in helping campuses institutionalize reforms that empower students with the information they need to register and vote.
Check out Ballotpedia for accurate and objective information on politics and elections.
If you run into any issues at the polls, call Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683).
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