PHILADELPHIA — The City of Philadelphia today is starting its youth-led voter registration effort as a part of the First Vote 2020 initiative, launched in 2019. This initiative will allow Gen-Z to participate in this election cycle by conducting voter registration and engagement ahead of Pennsylvania’s October 19 deadline.
First Vote 2020 is a coordinated voter education and registration effort from the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement (OYE) sponsored by Freedom Credit Union that is geared toward engaging young people around all of the ways that one can exercise civic participation leading up to Election Day. The program first launched in November 2019 with the intention of bringing a slate of civics trainings to high school students. Unfortunately, due to the emergence of COVID-19, OYE had to find creative ways to continue to engage students as the City developed a response to the pandemic. Throughout Spring 2020, First Vote 2020 efforts were used to support the work of Philly Counts, and the voter registration efforts of existing programs like Vote that Jawn.
Though the emergence of COVID-19 has made traditional voter registration increasingly difficult, OYE has developed an innovative way for our young people to continue to engage their peers and register their families, friends, and neighbors to vote while being socially responsible.
Wearing newly designed VRTees (voter registration t-shirts), First Vote 2020 ambassadors will be able to direct individuals to QR codes on the back of their shirts that will not only take users to Pennsylvania’s voter registration application, but also the application for a mail-in ballot. Traditional voter registration drives require people to be in close contact with registrants, stand at specific/high-traffic locations, and be responsible for the transport and delivery of physical forms to the City’s Commissioners Offices. The QR code eliminates a need for close contact, our ambassadors will not have to be responsible for paper forms, and best of all, voter registration can occur whenever the shirt is worn.
“Young people will define the 2020 election, whether they’re of voting age or not,” said Jeanette Bavwidinsi, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement. “Gen-Z has this unique way of commanding the conversation and driving our collective attention towards the issues that they care about. They genuinely want better for their communities, our city, and this nation —and they won’t stop until they see real change. Many of them know that change includes voting.”
The Philadelphia Youth Commission will act as senior ambassadors for the program by supporting the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement staff in running citywide weekly voter registration drives with other First Vote 2020 ambassadors throughout the fall.
OYE was fortunate enough to also receive the support of Freedom Credit Union, a local Philadelphia institution, whose leadership believed deeply in the program’s goal. “Freedom Credit Union has always been eager to provide opportunities for the youth of the Philadelphia area,” said John King, President & CEO of Freedom Credit Union. “The First Vote 2020 initiative is as much educational as it is critical to the future of democracy in this country. We are proud to be a part of the program and look forward to working with the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement to empower a younger generation of leaders.”
Young people interested in supporting this initiative can sign-up to volunteer by filling out this form: bit.ly/FirstVotePHLAmbassador. Shirts are in limited supply so first come, first served. Volunteers will be notified via email about when and where to pick up their shirts.
Using the hashtag #FirstVote2020PHL, the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement and other First Vote 2020 partners will chronicle the experiences of first-time voters and young Philadelphians as they immerse themselves in the 2020 election and become more civically engaged individuals. Watch what Gen-Z has to say about why Philadelphia should vote here.
About the Office of Youth Engagement
The Office of Youth Engagement (OYE) was created in 2017 to be a megaphone for the voices of young people in Philadelphia. OYE does this by creating original programming, providing policy recommendations, forging relevant partnerships, and elevating the amazing work of Philadelphia’s youth. OYE houses the Philadelphia Youth Commission and the Millennial Advisory Committee.
About Freedom Credit Union
Community-based Freedom Credit Union in Philadelphia, chartered in 1934, is a full-service financial institution that offers a banking alternative to consumers. Anyone who lives, works, worships, performs volunteer service, or attends school in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, or Philadelphia Counties is eligible for membership. Freedom Credit Union has over $1.1 Billion in assets and in excess of 70,000 members, operating branch offices in Abington, Lansdale, Philadelphia, and Warminster locations of Pennsylvania. For more information about Freedom Credit Union, check them out on Twitter and Facebook!