Shaping the Vote in a Time of Uncertainty
By Jasmine Burton (Global Shapers Atlanta Hub Equity and Inclusion Lead) and Courtni Andrews (Global Shapers Atlanta Racial Equity Lead)
2020 continues to be a time of unprecedented challenge at the intersection of mass crises that span a public health pandemic, modern day civil rights and racial reckoning movements, and a fragile global economy. We can say without hesitation that this is a period of immense pain and darkness.
However, as generations before us have collectively risen above the challenges, tragedies and crises of their times to pave a “new normal” for us, now is our time to rise.
As proud members of the Atlanta Global Shapers hub, we are honored to be in community with fellow millennial thought-leaders that are passionate about moving the needle of change from equity and inclusion, climate and environment, and education and employment lenses to build a better tomorrow.
Born out of the World Economic Forum, the Global Shapers Community is a network of inspiring young people under the age of 30 working together to address local, regional and global challenges. With more than 7,000 members, the Global Shapers Community spans 369 city-based hubs in 171 countries.
And as part of the Atlanta Hub’s impact leadership, we are working with impact leaders around the world towards the 2021 Global Shapers Community Equity and Inclusion goal of equipping 100,000 people with the knowledge and skills to drive action on diversity, equity and inclusion specifically related to humanitarian assistance, gender equity, health equity, and social inclusion.
As part of this call to action, our hub has been actively amplifying, engaging and supporting the Shaping the Vote initiative, which seeks to combat the low voter turnout of young people in the United States.
From gathering and promoting “Why Voting Matters to Me” testimonials from our hub members to showcasing diverse voting artwork that is a part of the Power to the Polls exhibition (made by female-identifying and gender non-conforming residents of the US), our hub has been working to further educate members of our community about diverse voting experiences, encouraging our Atlanta community to register to vote if they are willing and able, and mobilizing fellow eligible millennials to vote through promoting, donating to and partnering with accessible tools such as Branch (which was founded by an Atlanta millennial also!)
Samples of the Power to the Polls Imagery
Branch Atlanta’s Home Page to help with inclusion and access in the voting process
Our 2020 Civic Engagement activities culminated in a series of safe space conversations that we hosted — A Racial Equity Masterclass and a Shaping the Vote Civic Dinner. These convenings offered space for conversations with folks who are ineligible to participate in the American voting process which shined a light on other meaningful ways to be civically engaged at both the local and national levels. This includes but is not limited to attending local town hall meetings, participating in grassroots activism, and advocating for increased voter engagement by those who are eligible to vote with an empathic worldview of those who are excluded from the process.
We also had candid conversations with other millennials about barriers to voting including:
- Understanding and fully researching the candidates on the ballot can be incredibly complicated and confusing
- Local elections have less visibility on social media or other platforms which makes knowing about them and the issues being voted on in common discourse limited for an average millennial
- Beyond many of our K-12 educational experiences, learning about government is often complex and confusing as well
- Lastly, because of the intensity of identity politics, many people are looking for opportunities to be more informed in their voting process and to understand the worldviews and experiences of those who occupy different identities, but do not know where to begin
Despite these challenges, some tangible calls to action that our surfaced from these community dialogues include:
- Supporting in-person voting to make the experience more approachable and fun, perhaps even in ways that are primed for social media trends (such as volunteering for Pizza to the Polls or Georgia 55 and or participating in Art exhibitions, dancing or music shows at polling locations with long lines)
- Amplifying reputable resources about the voting process across social media
- Curating more safe space conversations for loved ones and strangers to talk about these hard topics, learn from each other and ideate on ways that we can lessen the barriers to entry in the voting process
- And having these conversations with our personal and professional communities in real time outside of election seasons to combat the silos and encourage organic empathy within our own communities.
While we definitely don’t have the answers to everything, we do feel inspired by these conversations and spaces that are working towards positive and long lasting change.
So with that, we call upon our fellow Millennials and Gen Z-ers across the country to, as we say in Atlanta, RISE UP and use your power to vote and or engage in the civic process to shape the future of our country so that we can not only collectively survive, but also thrive.
(In Georgia, find your polling place at iwillvote.com, find a secure dropbox before 7pm today at gaballotdropbox.org. Call 888–495–6222 if you need a ride to the polls)