When we launched Vote That Jawn in September, we issued the challenge to come up with the best ideas to get as many young Americans to register and then vote in the 2018 mid-term elections. Our hope, in accordance with the mission of our umbrella organization SafeKidsStories.com, was to amplify youth voice in this process. We wanted to offer educational and informative, youth-oriented and youth-created material that young people registering other young people could read, listen to, and share. We hoped to add support that would connect through the Philadelphia youth-vote cohort—as indeed their voting connects them—even though they are usually separated by schools, economic circumstance, ethnicity, voting programs, and states, or even countries, of origin. We wanted to reward teams who had registered the largest number of new voters; who had been most creative in their strategies; and who had shown the most "grit" in finding and convincing people to register and vote.
On Wednesday, November 7th, the day after the election, we gathered in the Mayor's Reception Room on the second floor in City Hall at 4pm with the amazing Clef Club Junior Jazz ensemble to celebrate—and to hear moving stories of teams that had participated. Our three judges were David Brown, co-director of the Jawn and assistant Professor at Temple's Klein College of Media and Communication, Dr. Peter Conn, Director of The Athenaeum of Philadelphia and Professor Emeritus at the University of Pennsylvania, and Michelle Saahene, the Starbucks Activist and life coach. They listened to reports from a few teams and from our student writers, who had gone out the week before to talk to groups and bring back news of their efforts.
Here are the results:
Most Voters to the Polls: Seemed simple when we conceived of it last summer, but with such diversity of teams, and such wildly varying numbers of young members of diverse communities, the judges decided to award the prize to a team that had registered 100% of the 18-year-olds in its building: Mastery Lenfest High School, whose voting project has been led by teacher Joseph Bradley. Read about his work here. As one judge said, "One hundred percent is the gold standard."
Most Creative Campaign: Lots of groups have great ideas, some long-standing and carried out by professional administrators. Temple College Democrats used all their connections to reach, well, everyone they could reach. They recruited new voters on campus, threw a political shindig, used local subway stops to talk to their non-college neighbors, and used volunteer assignments, one at Planned Parenthood, as a chance to talk to young, unregistered voters. What's so creative about this? They moved through their slice of America, unafraid to talk to people with different resumes. In a segmented country, that's social creativity.
Most Grit in a Campaign: Turns out that one team went about registering voters—even though none of them is yet old enough to vote. Art Sanctuary's interns, one 17-, two 15-, and one 12-year-old, invited Jawn animation artist José Rosero to help them merge the Jawn and Art Sanctuary logos for T-shirts they offered to new voters. They sent a call out on the organization's newsletters, went door-to-door, out on the street. They also worked over family members and neighbors. Four underage Americans registered six people—and also did fierce studying themselves, for talking points and to get themselves ready when it's their turn. What if every team lifted one-and-a-half times their weight?
Congratulations to our winners, and to everyone who participated in the Jawn. When we put democracy into action, we all win.