Students take action, spread importance of voting with When We All Vote


Photo credit: When We All Vote

Pictured is the logo of the When We All Vote organization. When We All Vote aims to spread awareness towards the importance of voting and why people should to take action.

By Nyah Fernandez, Multimedia Editor

As the presidential election looms, youth have taken action by spreading awareness of the importance of voting through an organization called  When We All Vote created by former first lady Michelle Obama. According to the organization’s website, “When We All Vote is a non-profit, nonpartisan organization that is on a mission to increase participation in every election and close the race and age voting gap by changing the culture around voting, harnessing grassroots energy, and through strategic partnerships to reach every American.”

When We All Vote launched in 2018 by co-chairs Obama, Tom Hanks, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Janelle Monae, Chris Paul, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. When We All Vote is striving to change the culture around voting using a data-driven and multifaceted approach to increase participation in elections. In the When We All Vote Recap of 2018, Obama commented on voting in the United States.

“Right now, one in five eligible people in this country are not even registered to vote, and I know it’s not because people don’t care. we all care,” Obama said. The only way to make change in this country is to get out and vote for the change you are looking for.”

Seniors Addison Lee, Hannah Joe, Claire Helscher and Emma London are a part of My School Votes (MSV) West Coast and When We All Vote. These students shared their experience working with My School Votes (MSV) and why they decided to get involved within the organization.

Lee is a co-ambassador for When We All Vote and works on a national level to organize meetings as well as co-supervises six states including Oregon, Nevada, Washington, California, Hawaii and Alaska. There are over 250 student ambassadors like Lee who run weekly calls together to get teenagers on board with their goals. She got involved with When We All Vote during this past summer when she decided to join a call to “give it a try.”

“There were kids giving the welcome call presentation and they just talked about how much youth mattered and it really resonated with me in ways that I did not expect,” Lee said.

Lee said that young people believe their vote does not matter. She feels that the world wants people to think that their vote doesn’t matter so people don’t go out and vote on their own.

“There is so much voter disenfranchisement that goes on if you think about it, voter disenfranchisement wouldn’t be going on if your vote didn’t matter, but your vote does matter,” Lee said. “You should be looking into your mayor, your local district attorney, your council member, councilmen or councilwoman. Even your local elections impact such a big part of your life and getting involved with that is vital.”

Lee believes that teenagers are starting to recognize the importance of voting, especially during this summer of 2020. She thinks that there is still an “insane” belief that teenagers are taking action.

“The West Coast already tends to be more politically active. It’s not one of our target states but we have pretty high turnout rates,” Lee said. “In terms of our working status, it is all positive, and looking at the fact that we have a high school voter registration in almost every single state of the US is pretty significant.”

Lee believes that digital waves are also a “huge” impact on spreading awareness of voting, especially towards teenagers. She feels that by sharing infographics and more resources to young people can “bump” up the awareness for voter registration.

“People are just inevitably learning more about voting,” Lee said. “So it’s not just their friends yelling at them to vote. It’s also a consistent stream of information that they are being given.”

Fellow senior Claire Helscher can’t vote this election because she will not be 18 until April. She joined When We All Vote/MSV West Coast because she felt that the election was still important since politics affect people’s lives.

“I really wanted to encourage other people to have their voices heard because it’s important that people know that their vote means something,” Helscher said. “I really wanted to work with When We All Vote/MSV West Coast because their primary goals were to close the race and age voting gaps, which are two of the things that I am really passionate about.”

(Photo Credit: Claire Helscher ’21)
Members of My School Votes’ West Coast regional chapter meet to discuss voter registration plans for the summer and upcoming school year. “I really wanted to encourage other people to have their voices heard because it’s important that people know that their vote means something,” senior Claire Helscher said.

One phrase Helscher feels captures the importance of voting is “this is your voice.” She feels although voting is a right, it is also a privilege because not everyone in the United States is able to vote.

“Make sure that you’re going out there to vote and you’re voting for the people in your community and the people you love, it is your voice- don’t forget that,” Helscher said.

Fellow senior Hannah Joe also joined When We All Vote/MSV West Coast in June because she will not be able to participate in the upcoming election this November. Joe feels that the election is very important for a lot of issues she cares about.

“I wanted to get people who can vote excited about voting. How can I give them the resources that they need to be able to vote, and feel confident about that ability,” Joe said.

Joe says that the main goal of MSV West Coast was getting people involved with the program itself and recruiting people to be part of the program. She feels that is it “really important” for young people to register other youth voters because, historically, younger eligible voters don’t vote in elections. Joe also believes that “your voice matters” and that your voice is an impact on the world and your society.

“I feel like when you’re young, you feel like there’s not much you can do to impact issues but this is a very easy thing you can do,” Joe said. “Right now, it’s obviously not as accessible as it usually is but it’s there for [people] and [others] should take advantage of it.”

Senior Emma London is also not going to be able to participate in this upcoming election but feels that it is really important to educate herself and help people vote along the way. In the election, London believes that if teenagers do not speak up and take action for what they believe in, the world will not change for the better.

“I think also whether we like it or not, this is the world that’s being handed down to us. And if we don’t step up now, then when will we?” London said.

London feels that digital activism is definitely on the rise and feels that it is “effective” because it is also accessible to people. She feels that if you can not go out and protest, there are other things you can do to show one’s support.

“This is the perfect time for this program to be gaining traction, especially online because there are so many people who are excited about getting involved right now,” London said.  “It’s very accessible because everything’s obviously virtual. So I feel like even if you look previously, you wouldn’t have been able to make a meeting in person, now it’s much easier to get access to the program.”

London believes that voting is “absolutely genius” and she feels that it is important to make sure that people aren’t just saying things are wrong or injustice about the world but taking action and showing up to the polls to make it count.

“It’s not enough to just be angry anymore or to want to see things change,” London said. “It’s up to us.”

Below is a video made by Helscher as part of a series to spotlight When We All Vote ambassadors. This video is the first of that series.