The Pandemic Can’t Stop Us: Youth Vote Initiatives Go Virtual

By Sophie Burkholder

The way we vote is about to be turned upside down. Fears of the coronavirus pandemic have prompted fears of in-person voting, and demand for mail-in ballots has seen a dramatic increase. There’s little that will stand in the way of the determined youth vote, but recent changes to the polling system because of the pandemic might challenge it. Pennsylvania’s mail-in ballot applications require voters to enter their driver’s license numbers, preventing those without driver’s licenses from registering.

But in the face of these difficulties, some young voters are more energized than ever to tell the world how they feel. And When We All Vote (WWAV) is one of the many organizations trying to make sure that happens.

Across the country, high schools and universities — the easiest places to find young voters — are going online to limit the spread of the coronavirus. So the organizers behind WWAV decided to do the same and launch a virtual Student Ambassadors initiative.

Last Wednesday, nearly 50 students from across the country joined a Zoom call with WWAV staffers to find ways of energizing the youth vote on a virtual front. Squares of young faces populated the screen, some with simulated backgrounds of tropical beaches or the skylines of their hometowns. Soon, there were too many faces for one screen alone, and Zoom created multiple pages of arrays of postage-stamp sized video feeds, students dialing in from their bedrooms, their back porches, and even their phones.