Yesterday, Amanda and I went to Capitol Hill to participate in a meeting about voter empowerment among youth voters. Many organizations, such as Our Time and Campus Progress attended, as well as many representatives, such as Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Jan Shankowski (D-IL), Rush Holt (D-NJ), John Conyers (D-MI), and John Lewis (D-GA). Many of these representatives have been working for years to counteract voter suppression measures. Representative Lewis, in fact, met and marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement.
At the meeting, students, including myself, got the chance to share their stories of voter empowerment and suppression, ranging from trying to navigate the often murky waters of voter registration to trying to inspire their peers to get out the vote. I got to share my story about voter ID law at this meeting.
It is because of restrictive voter ID that I currently cannot vote. I attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire but live in Indiana. My family and I moved to the Hoosier State from Pennsylvania over winter break. I have spent a total of two weeks in Indiana, and therefore have not been able to acquire an Indiana driver’s license or other form of ID yet. With the new law in New Hampshire, I would only be allowed to vote this November with my college ID, but would be barred from the polls in the future.
My and the other students who shared their stories to the Congressmen helped validate their views and their actions while encouraging them to continue to fight for voting rights, especially in the face of all of the legislation that is threatening to bar me, and thousands like me, from voting this November.
I ended my presentation with a statement, which Representative Hoyer later quoted to show the desire of the millennial generation to participate in politics – “I don’t care where I vote, I just want to vote.” Hoyer then said that he and his colleagues are coming up with some innovative ideas to help students know what they have to do to vote. Hoyer and the others are hoping to have a bipartisan solution to the problem.
Hoyer and the others stressed getting the information out there because, as one representative put it, “you can’t win an election without young people involved.”
The meeting ended with Representative Lewis giving his opinions on the subject. Lewis reflected on his time as a Civil Rights activist and urged for action from both Congress and the young people in the room.
“You’ve got to go out there and push and pull and put a face on it,” he said. “Share your stories.”
He noted the similarities between the roadblocks to voting rights during the Civil Rights Movement and the roadblocks that exist for voters today.
“What’s going on [across the country] is shameful; it’s sinful,” he added. “If young people don’t cast a vote, it ruins our democracy.”
As a young person who cares about voting and participating in our political process, it is encouraging for me to see that other people, including politicians care about this issue and want to see me vote just as much as I do.
Here is a link to Campus Progress’ website: http://www.campusprogress.org
Here is a link to Our Time’s website: http://www.ourtime.com
Special thanks to Matt Segal for organizing this meeting