Vote That Jawn wants all young people in Philly to vote

Vote That Jawn has been working to register 18-year-olds and other first-time voters since 2018.
PHOTO: Provided

November’s election will be the first in which Kamryn Davis can vote for president, and the 19-year-old from West Philadelphia is excited.

“To be able to have a say in who can govern the entire country or speak on behalf of the country, it just makes me feel important, like I have a duty to my country to make a difference,” Davis said.

She is working with “Vote That Jawn,” a project that aims to get all young people in Philadelphia, particularly those teenagers old enough to vote, just as excited about registering and casting their ballots.

Davis, who is part of the group’s social media team, creates TikTok videos in hopes of catching the eyes of her peers while weaving in information about voting. In one video, she manages to name the locations of all of the city’s satellite election offices.

“Sometimes it’s just fun things to get your attention, but most times it’s informative TikToks, just in a fun, creative way,” said Davis, a student at West Chester University.

In Pennsylvania, the deadline to register for the November 3 election is Monday, Oct. 19, and Vote That Jawn is making a big push to get young Philadelphians to sign up.

The organization will be hosting a pop-up concert Wednesday at noon outside City Hall, one of the sites where voters can request, fill out and submit their ballots in one visit. On Friday, they will be fanning out to other satellite election offices throughout the city.

Vote That Jawn plans to hold several events leading up to the voter registration deadline on Monday, Oct. 19. PHOTO: Provided

In addition, Vote That Jawn will be holding daily registration drives as requested, representatives from the group said.

Even after the registration period ends, the initiative will continue, with plans to release a rap video featuring “Young Ben Franklin” about the process of voting by mail.

There’s more information voters need to know this year than ever before, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and political climate surrounding the election, said Carson Eckhard, a youth leader with Vote That Jawn.

Eckhard, 21, who grew up in Florida, said politics were a frequent point of conversation in her household growing up, and, as a result, she developed an interest in voting. However, many of her high school classmates didn’t and weren’t able to cast a ballot in the 2016 general election, she said.

“I wish I had access to something like Vote That Jawn when I was a first time voter,” Eckhard said. “I think that this kind of positive peer pressure goes a long way in encouraging young people to vote but also in making sure there’s somebody to answer their questions.”

Eckhard, a senior at the University of Pennsylvania, came to Philadelphia for school and will be in University City on Election Day, though she plans to cast an absentee ballot in Florida.

She oversees a team that creates content for Vote That Jawn’s website. The initiative is nonpartisan, so they focus on issues rather than specific candidates, Eckhard said.

Topics that generate a lot of interest include climate change, criminal justice and healthcare, Eckhard said.

“I think Vote That Jawn appeals largely to college and high school students, and a lot of us are thinking about what kind of world we want to live in in 5, 10, 20 years,” she added.

Vote That Jawn was started in 2018 by Lorene Cary, an author, playwright and senior lecturer in Penn’s English Department, with a goal of getting more 18-year-olds and other first-time voters to register by deploying civically-engaged students.

At the time, Davis was a senior at Central High School, and she was inspired to get involved after learning about the civil rights movement.

“One of the main things that I was intrigued by was the civil rights movement, and their push towards getting not only Black people but all people — no matter what they looked like or what gender, race they came from — the right to vote,” she said.

The first Vote That Jawn campaign was successful, helping to more than double Philadelphia’s 18-year-old turnout in 2018 compared to the previous midterm election.

Davis continues to urge people to vote in all elections, not just when the White House is on the line.

“Every election makes a difference,” she said.

For more information about voter registration or applying for a mail-in ballot, go to www.philadelphiavotes.com or www.pavoterservices.pa.gov.

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