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    Completed postcards using the packets prepared by the VMI
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    Leo Cooper '22 and Maddie Feldman '22 mail postcards to GDS seniors
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    Maddie Feldman '22 (center top) in one of the VMI's pre-lobbying meetings
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    Sample VMI postcard sent to GDS seniors
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    Announcement of Poll Workers Project via @myschoolvotesdmv

Voter Mobilization Initiative: Repairing Democracy One Vote at a Time

When I first hit ‘send’ on an email last May to recruit GDS High School students to volunteer with the Student Action Committee’s newly-launched Voter Mobilization Initiative (VMI), the promise of a constructive channel to address voting inequality began to nullify my grave concerns about rampant voter suppression. Now, over four months later, I still feel a flutter of excitement every time my Zoom account chimes, indicating another student activist has entered the waiting room. Why? Every optimistic Zoom attendee, each meticulously written postcard, each phone call to a historically disenfranchised voter is a testament to two things: the fight to guarantee voting rights spans all ages, and today’s generation of youth is prepared to continue that fight for equal and safe access to the ballot box long after the 2020 election.

Since the VMI’s inception at the start of the summer, 30+ GDS students have united to work tirelessly to make the right to vote more accessible, addressing every facet of this election cycle’s inequities through tangible action. The Voter Education Sub-Committee disseminated registration flyers to neighborhoods across the DMV, dropped off hundreds of brochures at local senior living homes that explain the mail-in voting process, and established a social media platform (@myschoolvotesdmv) that has reached thousands of people by sharing information about local ballot drop-box locations, registration deadlines, and voting myths. The Voter Registration Sub-Committee reached out to swing-state voters through relational organizing and wrote postcards detailing the registration and mail-in ballot procedure to GDS Class of 2021 seniors. The Voter Legislation Sub-Committee digitally lobbied at the federal level to DMV legislators and at the state level to Maryland delegates, urging representatives to pass sweeping election protections to make the voting process safer during the era of COVID.

Kicking off the 2020–21 school year, the Student Action Committee also launched the GDS Poll Workers’ Project, an initiative that has committed over 200 DMV-area high schoolers to replace at-risk poll-watching volunteers at local polling precincts on Election Day. It has also organized a weekly phone-banking cohort that has partnered with the Center for Common Ground’s Reclaim Our Vote campaign to make calls to historically disenfranchised voters in swing states.

Though the twin forces of the pandemic and systematic voter suppression still threaten a democratic election, I am confident that the same students who have spent hours upon hours advocating, lobbying, phone-banking, postcard-writing, and volunteering at the polls will carry this fiery pursuit for justice with them long after November 3.

Now, as I hit ‘send’ to share this blog with the community just 34 days before Election Day, I weigh the value of waxing on my hopes for the future of democracy and my pride in the work we’ve accomplished. Instead, I think I’d rather use my final words here to implore community members one last time to get active, get involved, and get out the vote (GOTV)!

How to Get Involved

  • 18+: Make sure you are registered to vote and create a voting plan for November 3!
    – DC voters — You will automatically receive a ballot if you are an active, registered voter.
    – MD & VA voters — Make sure to request your mail-in ballot ASAP if you decide not to vote in-person.
  • 16+: If you are able, sign up to work at the polls! Young people must step up and work at polling precincts to keep our communities safe and ensure our local polling places remain open for people to vote. GDS HS students do not have scheduled classes on Election Day! Sign up to receive explicit instructions from the GDS Poll Workers’ Project.
  • Students, faculty, and GDS parents alike: Sign up to phone-bank! Aside from face-to-face canvassing (which is nearly impossible in the COVID world), phone-banking is the most effective way to GOTV. Sign up to join our weekly phone-banking sessions, where you will be trained and have access to professional ROV employees!

Email Maddie Feldman ‘22 or the GDS Student Action Committee if you’d like to learn more about or get involved in our community efforts!

The Voter Mobilization Initiative was led by Maddie Felman ’22 and Anoushka Chander ’21 with subcommittee leadership from Ella Farr ’21, Elliot Oppenheim ’21, Jonah Shesol ’22, Liana Smolover-Bord ’21, and Nolan Sheridan ’21. The VMI’s leadership would like to spotlight the work and support of their faculty advisers: Lauren Dickert (GDS chief of staff), Andy Lipps (HS math and history teacher), Leigh Tait (program associate for community engagement and experiential learning), and Jeremy Haft (former director of community engagement and experiential learning). Finally, the following students dedicated considerable time to the Voter Mobilization Initiative, and many more students have signed up to phone-bank or work at polls.

Aidan Banerjee ’21
Aidan ’22
Andrew Mikhail ’23
Annabel Williams ’22
Caleb Rosenman ’21
Caroline Antonipillai ’22
Edith Carey ’23
Emma Nelson ’22
Hank Schwabacher ’22
Jamie Kleinbord ’22
Ken Bailey ’22
Lauren Petrilla ’23
Lena Levey ’21
Leo Cooper ’22
Luke Flyer ’22
Maddy Carroll ’22
Maya Stutman-Shaw ’22
Nande Bond ’23
Nava Mach ’23
Phoebe Braun ’22
Seth Riker ’22
Sophie Axelrod ’22
Sophie Zinn ’22
Stella Tongour ’22
Will Olsen ’21

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