Using the power of youth voice and connection, #VoteThatJawn aims to bring 18-year-olds and other first-time voters to the polls—beginning a process toward full civic engagement—not just for a charismatic candidate, but to advocate for youth safety, agency, and inclusion.
For older kids, safety changes as they step into adult life. In the spring of 2018, SafeKidsStories.com launched the youth-led pop-up #VoteThatJawn with the aim of bringing new voters to the polls. The idea: Give civic-minded youth in Philly a platform to get their 18-year-old peers excited to cast that first big vote. What if all 20,000 18-year-olds in Philly showed up in November? What would begin to be possible nationwide?
That summer, we started blogging, interviewing all kinds of folks on their “first time,” asking teachers, mentors, coaches, media, sports celebs, artists, musicians, EVERYONE involved. Then, on Saturday, September 22, 2018, we kicked off a two-week by youth, for youth registration campaign. Teams worked to register as many fresh voters as possible before the October 9th deadline.
As we got closer to November 6th and a whole generation prepared to cast their first ballot, we shared content to inspire them and provide them with the tools and resources they needed to make informed decisions on Election Day. Our work culminated in the November 7th Jawn, where we celebrated our September 22nd teams and announced the winners of our three competition categories: Most Voters to the Polls, Most Creative Campaign, and Campaign with the Greatest Grit.
And it worked! #VoteThatJawn helped more than double 18-year-old voter registration in Philly, from 2,700 in 2014 to nearly 7,000 in the 2018 midterm elections.
Now, in 2020, our new jawn is this: Bring 10k fresh voters to the polls.
Our #VoteThatJawn initiative will post content on our site, work with teachers and organizers across Philadelphia, and sponsor youth-led events to help youth claim this fundamental right. As actor/activist Yara Shahidi says in her groundbreaking platform EighteenX18, this can be the generation that changes the old myth that young people won’t connect voting to their passionate activism and volunteer work. They/You/We will.
because this is Philadelphia, home of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution; because in 1780, here in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania became the first state to abolish slavery (OK, Vermont, was really first, OFC, but in 1777 they weren’t even a state);
because Philly has brought the world amazing talent, from the Lenni Lenape to Ben Franklin to Solomon Guggenheim to Margaret Mead to John Coltrane to Gamble and Huff to Dr. J and Kobe Bryant to Andrew Weil to André Watts to Grace Kelly to Taylor Swift to Schoolly D to Kevin Hart;
because occasionally our fervor outstrips our courtesy (yes, the city did have to grease light poles to keep us off them after the Eagles won the Superbowl. So?);
because this is Philly, we want to lead the country in youth vote. Seriously.
If this is your first time, no matter who you are, your birthright is your voice and your vote, your jawn. Let’s not just talk about making things better, let’s do it. #VOTETHATJAWN
“We vote for not only ourselves, but for 'all sons and daughters' and every layer and intersection of identity. We vote for each other.”