YVote encourages youth civic engagement and voting in 2020 and beyond

Mia Payne_YVote
Mia Payne, a high school student involved with YVote.
Courtesy of Mia Payne

Studies show that young people who vote in two consecutive elections when they turn 18 are more likely to be voters for life.

YVote, a New York-based nonprofit organization, is committed to increasing youth voter participation in this year’s national election, but even more so in local elections that will impact the lives of future generations.

New York currently has the second to lowest youth turnout in the country. The hundreds of teens and young adults participating in YVote activities aim to change that statistic.

“In the same way teenagers and young adults learn and aspire to drive, we need to help our young people become educated and aspire to vote before they reach voting age,” said YVote Director, Sanda Balaban. “In this way, we will realize the power of the vote.”

Balaban said that election was a wake-up call to many New Yorkers, which helped the lead to the creation of the organization. She told the Bronx Times that she and her colleagues realized there was a need to educate youths about voting.

“If voting was a product it would have been taken off the shelf,” she said. “We don’t think people vote for the sake of voting.”

According to Balaban, there are many families in urban communities whose primary concern is rent money and putting food on the table. Often voting is an afterthought in these homes.

Then there are people who encounter voter suppression and become disenfranchised with the whole process.

One high school student who is involved with YVote is 16-year-old Mia Payne of Co-op City. Payne, a junior at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan, found out about YVote through her school.

She explained that although people her age appear to be glued to social media, it isn’t always for videos and memes. Sometimes,  it’s to read and learn about politics.

“YVote related to me because of the initiative about voting,” she said.

Payne said many young people began to care about voting in 2016. According to Payne, she and her friends felt President Trump did not represent their views and on top that, the numerous amount of people of color being killed had caused them to want change.

“We should be holding politicians accountable,” she stressed. “We know Trump is not going to listen to Americans.”

Payne said she understood people have busy lives, but if they don’t take time to vote they shouldn’t complain about how things are in their community.

She emphasized that people must know who their council member, Senator and Congress member are and recognize elections are every year, not just every four years.

“You have to look at yourself and realize you are a voter,” she said. “You can’t say nobody cares about you if you don’t know the person who is representing you.”

The teen recalled asking her mom why people voted if the education system was so antiquated and many people of color are still getting murdered by cops. It wasn’t until she joined YVote that she understood how voting impacts everything.

While not every politician does their job, it is the voters’ right to put them there for the opportunity to lead, she commented.

“They don’t have control of our lives,” Payne said.