By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD/LONGMEADOW — Although she is 17 and unable to vote in the Nov. 3 presidential election, Anna Gorfinkel of Longmeadow is still participating in the election process.
She, along with her fellow BBYO Connecticut Valley Region members, as well as BBYO members around the country, are participating in Voice Your Vote, a national non-partisan initiative of BBYO aimed at registering young voters ahead of the upcoming election.
A corps of BBYO of field organizers across the country currently are busy getting out the vote in their communities.
“I think Voice Your Vote is an important movement because it allows kids under 18, who aren’t eligible to vote yet, to be part of the election process as well as learn how parts of the election process work,” Anna Gorfinkel said.
Besides registering voters and presenting important information about voter registration, BBYO members are also recruiting teens 16 years old and up to volunteer to staff in-person voting polls in place of older volunteers who this year may have stepped down over concern about Covid-19.
Massachusetts is one of 45 states that allow 16-year-olds to serve as poll workers — not just due to the dangers of Covid — but according to the National Conference of State Legislatures “to encourage young citizens to engage in voting, registration and democracy.”
“We’re calling upon all teens, alumni and supporters to join as we ensure that every person is registered to vote, has a plan to vote, and also has safe fair access to vote,” said Jennifer Kruzansky, regional director of BBYO CVR. “We’re also working on having 100 BBYO teens registered to work the polls because we know that poll workers are very hard to come by now with COVID. Most of the people who work at the polls are older and could be high risk.”
Each year CVR holds a large regional kickoff to the upcoming year, as well as smaller chapter kickoff events.
“Because of COVID we couldn’t have our normal regional kickoff where we bring 500 teens together in person,” Kruzansky said. “This year we decided if we can’t have everybody together, let’s pivot to a model where we bring the regional kickoff to your community.”
BBYO CVR is now showing up to every chapter’s community with a 20-foot inflatable movie screen for a “drive-in movie” night.
And every one of those drive-in movie events will have a Voice your Vote component to it.
The Springfield/Longmeadow Kick-Off Drive in Movie/Voice Your Vote event will take place on Sunday, Oct. 18 at the Springfield JCC.
“We want to reach as many teens as possible. It’s like okay ‘let’s do an event that the teams are going to be drawn into and build upon it so that they have a more rounded experience. It’s fun to go to a drive-in movie with your friends and really learn about Voice Your Vote, rather than just sit at a table and register people to vote. We want to meet teens where they are at,” Kruzansky said. “Every kickoff will have a table with information about registering to vote and to get people registered to work the polls. And we also have a couple of different partners which is really exciting.”
Those partners include Sen. Ed Markey of Springfield, who is among the politicians who taped video snippets that are run viewed before the drive-in about the importance of voting.
“Whether you’re working the polls this Nov. 3 or taking the time to help your friends and family register to vote, each of you are proving that the young people of this country will be the leaders for a more just, equitable and more fruitful future for everyone,” said Sen. Markey in the video. “You are all part of a movement fueled by young people who are not afraid to raise their voices and demand much needed change in this country, and it’s time for elected leaders to listen, to trust and follow those young voices.”
According to Voice Your Vote’s website, there are 47 million 18 to 29 year olds who are eligible to vote in the 2020 election, and 15 million of them have turned 18 since the last presidential election.
According to Pew Research Center, one in 10 eligible voters are between the ages of 18 and 23 (referred to as Generation Z).
“The primary focus of Voice Your Vote is to teach teens how to be civically engaged from a young age,” explained Ryan Ladd, BBYO’s digital strategy manager. “Our nearly 150 teen Field Organizers from across the U.S. are working hard to register voters, pledge voters, recruit poll workers, and get people involved in this effort in general. Since August, more than 1,300 members of the BBYO community have taken action in one of our key campaign areas. We’re also proud that we’re quickly climbing to recruiting 300 poll workers.”
“The majority of our order – the members — are younger than 18,” said Dara Sadinsky, a Connecticut Valley Region member from West Hartford. “We want to get everyone who can be registered registered, but those of us who can’t vote in the election just want everyone as involved in as possible.”
Dara has also been reaching out to BBYO’s alumni network as well as beyond her BBYO peers.
“I’ve also been reaching out to a lot of family members because I have a lot of cousins specifically that are voting age, and also just making sure all of my aunts and uncles are registered and they’re updated; and my grandparents, even family friends. I’m just reaching out to everyone.
“I definitely think that this is a very important election,” she added. “No matter which way it goes. Not just our country but potentially the world could see a lot of things change.”