Election 2020

Philadelphia students helped register young voters in advance of the Georgia runoffs

Three teens at Central High describe their experience volunteering with Philly Youth Vote.

Angie Hinton / When We All Vote

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Students at Philly Youth Vote didn’t stop when the general election passed. After working through the fall to register voters in Philadelphia, they took up a new charge: helping counterparts in Georgia get young folks registered in time for the state’s Jan. 5 runoffs, which will determine the balance of power in the U.S. Senate.

“The voter registration deadline has been extended there — there’s a lot more kids,” said Sheyla Street, a Central High School student and Philly Youth Vote volunteer.

At least 36,000 Georgians who didn’t vote in November have cast votes in the Senate runoffs so far, according to the Washington Post, including many who were too young to cast ballots last month.

Street joined her classmates Samya Smalley and Abigail Thomas to talk to Billy Penn and WHYY Education about their experiences this year with Philly Youth Vote, which describes itself as “a nonpartisan collaboration of educators and community organizers dedicated to getting every 18-year-old in Philadelphia to the polls.”

The trio of Central High students and other volunteers used multiple strategies to help boost the city’s registered voter count, which reached 1.1. million, the highest in 35 years.

“We would do in-person registration, we did text messages … my school votes program as a whole has sent 30,000 registration DMs,” Street explained.

Getting involved with the registration process boosted the students’ interest in the mechanics of the election. They closely followed the controversies that swirled around Philadelphia’s ballot counting process and the incumbent president’s repeated efforts to discredit city officials.

“We’re really proud of the way our local government handled it,” Thomas said.

The group is also appreciative of the way Philadelphia felt so united: “I kind of appreciate how moments like that,” Smalley said, “we sort of come together.”

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