The Next Generation of Voters

Celebrating 100 years of Suffrage with new voters.

In there own words:

Abbey Priftis

I am voting this November for two supreme court seats, for my reproductive rights, for more equality, for my sister, and for every other woman out there. 

I grew up in a house where I was told that I could do and be anything I wanted as long as I stayed myself and worked hard. So imagine my surprise when I got older and began to see a much different reality. One where some people believe that because I am a woman my opportunities are limited. That I shouldn’t want to sit at the table with the men. That I should know my place and stay there. This is not the environment I want to live in or have us raise our future daughters in. I am voting this November for two supreme court seats, for my reproductive rights, for more equality, for my sister, and for every other woman out there. 

Jade Hu

We are voting to shape our future. We are voting to make change. We are voting for equality.

Voting is important to me because it is my opinion, my choice, and my voice that impacts not only the country’s future but my future as well. With voting we have to power to shape society and future generations. It is an important right to have and I vote in order to acknowledge that I get to be in a country where the people have the power to vote and use their voice. Furthermore, if you choose not to vote you are not allowed to complain so if you like to pick fights over the dinner table or like to have respectful and peaceful political conversations with people that have absolutely absurd values as much as I do…why not register and vote? I know I am tired of seeing a President with a bad spray tan and political views that degrade women and people of color and making decisions that negatively impact my future and the future of this country. We the people get to decide who represents the United States and elect officials that will help run this country. We are voting to shape our future. We are voting to make change. We are voting for equality. That is why I choose to vote and whoever reads this should too.

Grace Crangle

Now more than ever, each vote matters. I’m voting because I think it’s super important to be engaged and involved in our government in any way possible.

This upcoming election is not only going to be my first time voting in a presidential election, but is arguably one of the most important elections I’ll ever vote in during my lifetime. Due to such trying times- amidst a pandemic, a recession, a civil rights crisis, etc- there is a lot at stake. Now more than ever, each vote matters. I’m voting because I think it’s super important to be engaged and involved in our government in any way possible. From the local level all the way up to the federal level, the officials that I’m voting for will ultimately represent me, so it’s important that I have my say. I’m voting for the candidate whose policies and ideals best align with mine, and who I believe will do their best to unite such a divided country.

Halle Boyton

The people who tell you your vote doesn’t matter are scared of the power you hold with a ballot and a pen.

Women don’t have a choice on whether or not we’re involved in politics. Policy has and continues to directly affect our daily lives, regardless of whether or not you vote.  So many people are trying to control us by deciding what medicines we can take, what medical procedures we can have without permission from a husband or father, how much money we can make, and who’s stories should be believed. Voting is our opportunity to take control. And if you’re a person of color, LGBTQ+, an immigrant, low income, not Christian, or under-served in any way, you’re voting to survive. The people who tell you your vote doesn’t matter are scared of the power you hold with a ballot and a pen. This election, I’m voting to take one step closer to living in a world where I don’t have to put pepper spray on my college pack list. I may be settling on a candidate, but one step forward is better than a million steps back. 

Lexi Hoepfl

I vote for women’s rights, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the LGBTQ+ community, and for safety during this pandemic.

In 2016, America elected a President who is racist, sexist, homophobic, and transphobic. With this horrible man in office, many of his supporters have concluded that if President Trump can openly be every -ist and -phobic in the book then, they can as well. We have moved backwards in the past four years, from states putting unnecessary restrictions on a woman’s right to choose what she can and cannot do to her body. To police unlawfully killing many black citizens and systemic racism continuing to exist today. Then to a president who did not take a global pandemic seriously costing hundreds of thousands of American lives. To removing protections for the LGBTQ+ community by allowing medical professionals to deny treatment based on their beliefs. The list continues. 

This is why we need change and this is why it is important for me to vote. I vote for women’s rights, for the Black Lives Matter movement, for the LGBTQ+ community, and for safety during this pandemic. This will be my first presidential election that I am able to vote in and on August 18th it will be the 100th anniversary since the 19th amendment was ratified, giving me the right to vote as a woman. I am proud to be voting for a candidate who will address the issues listed above and also to be the first to pick a woman of color for vice president!

Saba Khan

I am voting for humanity this election. For love. For compassion. For us.

Voting is important to me because unlike so many people, I have the opportunity to bring change. I am using my vote to amplify and bring light to those voices that are unheard. To me, I am not just voting for myself – I am voting for children held in concentration camps and Black lives that are lost every single day. I am voting for those who fear an education because of school shootings and for girls who can’t step forward without being shamed. I am voting for humanity this election. For love. For compassion. For us. This election will determine the America we wish to create for those ahead. I am voting for an America that I will be proud of; an America where every human being is seen as one.

Kylie Goin

I’m voting for peoples voice that aren’t always heard in our governments discussions and who are hurt by the systemically biased and hurtful systems we still have in many of our societal and political structures today.

This will be my first presidential election, I voted in the Democratic primaries but this is my first presidential election outside of that. My parents have always emphasized the importance of voting for me even at a young age, with my dad having served two tours in the Middle East for the Marines and my mom having been an army brat and trained for the military. They both understood that voting was a birth right but one we have had to fight for and they wanted me to know how important it is to vote. I really want to make my voice heard and feel like one of the best and most practical ways to do that is to vote for a candidate I care about or one I feel like will actually make a difference. That’s why I’m voting for someone I feel like will help people often hurt by our government. I’m voting for peoples voice that aren’t always heard in our governments discussions and who are hurt by the systemically biased and hurtful systems we still have in many of our societal and political structures today. I’m voting for myself but for others who need a president who cares about their well being and happiness. 

Trish Grace

I am ready to vote for equal rights, the women around me, and environmental change.

The first time I voted I was so excited. After hearing Ms. Berg talk about the importance of participating in all elections I made it my goal to do so. I was so nervous that I ended up filling my ballot out wrong and had to ask for another one. This year’s presidential election is possibly one of the most important ones I will vote in during my lifetime. I am ready to vote for equal rights, the women around me, and environmental change.

Editor’s Note: These are all former students and some of my favorite people on the planet. They give me hope. I vote for them.

The Wind River Candidate

Lynnette Grey Bull: A voice Congress needs.

By Jessica Berg

On Tuesday, a primary election for the sole congressional seat in Wyoming will take place. The current seat is held by Republican Liz Cheney who does face a primary challenger in her party, but the more interesting primary race comes on the Democratic ticket which includes candidate Lynnette Grey Bull.

In early July, Lynnette Grey Bull announced her run for congress. She is a Hunkpapa Lakota of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Northern Arapaho from the Wind River Indian Reservation. If elected, she would be the first Native American Representative from Wyoming.

Image from Lynnette Grey Bull for Congress Facebook Page

With many heated primaries and races happening across the nation, I will admit that Wyoming wasn’t exactly on my radar until I had the chance to hear Ms. Grey Bull speak as a part of Loudoun County NOW’s speaker series (editorial disclosure, I am Vice President of Loudoun County NOW).

President of LC NOW, Barb Jones, met Lynnette at the Rose Bowl Parade in January, back before everyone was under quarantine, and immediately recognized something in Lynnette Grey Bull. Barb knew she had to reach out and introduce Lynnette to the rest of us here in Virginia because we, too, would be inspired by this candidate.

And here is what I want you to know about her, about this woman, about Lynnette Grey Bull: she is a voice. A voice that is needed, not just in Congress, but in the conversations that are taking place in America.

Think about it, she is running a race in Wyoming, yet she took the time out of her schedule to talk to grassroots organizers in Virginia. It isn’t because we are her constituents and she is vying for our vote. No. It is because the issues she cares about, the issues that affect her as a woman, a Native Woman, and a citizen of a reservation and of this nation, are issues that are being silenced and ignored.

From the Instagram of Barb Jones

“The statistics that hang over my head are these: I am among the most stalked, raped, murdered, sexually assaulted, and abused of any women in any ethnic group, and I am among those who suffer domestic violence 50 times higher than the national average. I share this reality with you not to elicit guilt or unease, but so that you will realize that I understand what this moment in America is. For some 400 years, people of color in this country have been crying, ‘I can’t breathe,” Lynnette Grey Bull stated in her announcement speech. She continuously reiterates these points again and again because for far too long people have not been paying attention.

Lynnette Grey Bull’s platform has been her passion throughout her life. While working to eradicate human trafficking, Lynnette ‘noticed there was no organization focused on Native American victims,’ so she started Not Our Native Daughters. The organization was ‘created for the education and awareness of the missing, exploited, murdered Indigenous Women & Children.’

Senator Elizabeth Warren is a strong supporter of MMIW legislation

“I have a personal passion working with the Native American communities, on education, training and offering victim services of sexual assault… I have served the women’s unit as counselor in the mentorship program, to which continued upon their release – most of which – were victims of sex trafficking by various forms. Furthermore, surviving and overcoming the many obstacles of being a sexual assault victim myself – I have a personal passion for victims,” she states on her LinkedIn page.

“What good is our sovereignty, if there is no justice? We must return to the truth that our women and children are sacred.” 

Lynnette Grey Bull

Grey Bull also serves as Vice President of the Global Indigenous Council that states it’s founding premise to recognize, ‘that, in the current political climate, it is imperative that an indigenous advocacy organization exists that is free from federal political influence, and will instead hold federal government cabinet secretaries, agency secretaries, members of congress and corresponding parliamentary members accountable for their actions and policies…’

In her platform, Lynnette states, “The COVID-19 crisis has drawn into stark focus the systemic failure of federal policy and administration in Indian Country and glaringly exposed what indigenous people have known for generations… Indian Country needs a functional infrastructure! Every aspect of vital infrastructure is lacking in Indian Country and we must change this with bold initiatives, not more of the same incremental failures.”

From the Facebook page of Lynnette Grey Bull for Congress

Listening to Lynette Grey Bull speak, reading up on her bio and work, and understanding that her candidacy is not about ‘politics as usual’, rather it is about a need for a voice in a position to make Native Women a priority in America, I wish I could vote for her.

Her candidacy is about an invisible epidemic that far too many of us are at best ignorant of, and at worst have outright ignored. Her candidacy is an eye-opening check on the status quo who have been complacent about the quality of life for all women in this country. Her candidacy is one of truth and justice. Her candidacy is what Wyoming needs and what this country needs.

On her website, Lynnette Grey Bull states, “I seek this nomination to represent the Democratic Party not as a candidate for Native America, but as a proud Native American who aspires to give voice and serve all the people of Wyoming.”

Wyoming gets one congressional seat; I want to see Lynnette Grey Bull fill it, for the citizens of Wyoming, and for the Native Women and Daughters who are owed a voice.

For voting information in Wyoming, visit: https://www.vote411.org/wyoming

For voting information in your state, visit: https://votesaveamerica.com/

Generation Revolution

3 young leaders, 1 amendment, and the infinite power of youth.

By Jessica Berg

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

A Brief History of the ERA:

The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was first introduced to Congress in 1923 by Alice Paul and the National Women’s Party. Paul is one of the women who helped make the final and heroic push to get the 19th amendment ratified. In 1923 in Seneca Falls, New York, a poignant location, she introduced the Equal Rights Amendment stating:

If we keep on this way they will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the 1848 Convention without being much further advanced in equal rights than we are…We shall not be safe until the principle of equal rights is written into the framework of our government.

Alice Paul celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment

There was massive momentum for ratification of the ERA in the 70’s during second wave feminism, as state by state approved the amendment. But a well-organized and funded conservative revival halted the progress and the amendment fell 3 states short of the 38 needed for ratification.

Gloria Steinem helped lead the fight for the ERA, and still is.

Then, in 2017, Nevada ratified the amendment, followed by Illinois in 2018, and with the help of organizations like Generation Ratify backing pro-ERA candidates, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the amendment in 2020. But now the amendment sits in limbo as the Trump administration refuses to lift the ratification deadline to have it officially added to the Constitution.

Rosie the Revolutionary

Rosie turned 13 on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated. She hopped on a bus in Georgia that was headed overnight to Washington DC. The next morning, she joined thousands of people for the 2017 Women’s March. That was her first foray into activism, and now, at the age of 16, she is running a national grassroots organization, GenERAtion Ratify.

Rosie Couture, Executive Director of GenERAtion Ratify

A self-proclaimed ‘political nerd, into policy and legislation,’ Rosie was shocked when she learned, in her government class, that the United States did not guarantee constitutional equality for women. Her wheels started spinning, thinking, “Wait, how is this not a thing? How do we not have this in our constitution? Why are people not talking about it?” Rosie was not alone in this thinking, and she decided to act.

Correcting the historical exclusion of women and people beyond the binary from our Constitution by mobilizing youth across the country to take action to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.

GenERAtion Ratify

A Youth Led Movement

In July of 2019 ‘a few 15-year-old kids at a public library in Arlington, Virginia’ founded Generation Ratify whose ‘mission is to correct the historical exclusion of women and people beyond the binary from our Constitution by mobilizing youth across the country to take action to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and advance gender equality.’

The power of the young voices in this movement is both inspiring and purposeful. Rosie realized that in these moments of turmoil in our country young people want to get involved but are often ‘discounted because we can’t vote, so it is hard to catch the attention of lawmakers.’ There ‘wasn’t an outlet for young people,’ Rosie states, so GenERAtion Ratify was created to fill the void.

As any student of history, or anyone paying attention, knows young people have always been at the forefront of movements for change in this country. So, it is no surprise that what started as an organization in an Arlington library, now has chapters in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

The local and state chapters are a huge part of GenERAtion Ratify’s mission:

Our local chapters bring Generation Ratify’s mission to life in local communities – fighting to ratify the ERA and advancing gender equality legislation; running educational workshops to teach their peers of the ERA and modern-day gender inequities; fighting to elect pro-ERA candidates; and challenging social disparities between the genders through community based solutions.  

We are the leader of the free world; how do we not guarantee gender equality?

Sakhi

16-year-old Nikhitha Balijepalli is the State Director of one such chapter in Maryland. “On the national stage there aren’t many ways for people who can’t vote to share their voice,” Nikhitha says. She started paying more attention to politics and policy after taking an AP Government class in school where she, like Rosie, learned about the ERA. “I started reading up about the equal rights amendment and thinking this is something that needs to happen,” Nikhitha recalls. She discovered Generation Ratify on Instagram and applied, the rest is history in the making.

Nikhitha Balijepalli, Maryland State Director for GenERAtion Ratify

And recently, 14-year-old rising freshman, Sakhi Kulkarni, decided to start a local chapter in Holliston, Massachusetts after ‘doing some research on the ERA.’ Hearing about the ERA in an amendments discussion in her Civics class, Sakhi questioned, “How is this not a thing? We are the leader of the free world; how do we not guarantee gender equality?”

Sakhi Kulkarni, Holliston Chapter Leader for GenERAtion Ratify

She didn’t stop at questions, she took action. Sakhi believes it is ‘important to be involved because ultimately we are going to be the ones living with the decisions that are made by today’s leaders,’ and her local chapter is already 20 strong.

In listening to the passion and hope of these 3 young women, one can’t help but be inspired about the future. They are optimistic and confident the ERA will be added to the constitution, it is just a matter of when. But don’t worry, GenERAtion Ratify, Rosie, Nikhitha, and Sakhi aren’t going anywhere.

Even when the ERA is added to the constitution, Nikhitha states, “It is so intersectional we have to make sure this amendment benefits those who don’t identify on the gender scale who are non-binary; it is far reaching.”

More than the ERA

The work GenERAtion Ratify is doing is more far reaching than the ERA, as well.

“This is just the beginning,” Rosie states of her organization and the ERA. “We have to fight for what the ERA means and its implementation.”  One of these areas of focus is Period Poverty; “It is huge barrier to educational opportunity,” Rosie states, and the other chapters are joining this movement.

In Maryland, Nikhitha’s State Chapter was ‘lobbying for a state bill which would give free access to menstrual products in public schools,’ and in Massachusetts, Sakhi’s team is “planning a lobbying day for H.1959, which would increase access to menstrual products.” And Virginia saw the work of young activists, testifying in Richmond on behalf of students for menstrual equity, help enact a reduction in the ‘tampon tax’ in the state. Tangible change is happening because of young leaders.

Generation Ratify is rooted in our chapters. There is so much work that needs to be done on a community level.

The work these local and state chapters are doing to collectively push the country forward in terms of gender equity is powerful. “Generation Ratify is rooted in our chapters. There is so much work that needs to be done on a community level, changing the culture,” Nikhitha states when talking about menstrual equity. She believes, “It starts in schools with health curriculums and how we talk to girls about periods, and how we talk to boys about it, as well.”

After all, education is the path that led these young women to enter grassroots organizing, and political and social activism; they learned about an issue in school, they recognized an injustice, and a national movement took root.

They Can’t (Yet) but you Can

As for the ERA, right now the fate of the amendment is in the hands of the courts. The Commonwealth of Virginia, State of Illinois, and State of Nevada have filed against David S. Ferriero in his official capacity as Archivist of the United States. This lawsuit asserts that the deadline placed on the ERA for ratification should be removed, so what is there for the young leaders of Generation Ratify to do?

Well, besides school work, social lives, and activism, the young people of Generation Ratify have also become versed in law. They filed their own Amicus Brief. Amicus briefs are ‘legal documents that are filed in court cases by outside parties with a strong interest in the subject matter. These briefs advise the court of relevant, additional information or arguments that the court might wish to consider.’  In their brief, Generation Ratify states:

Our ideas, concerns, and focus on inclusion and intersectionality is critical to fighting for an ERA that works for everyone. By filing this brief, we want to elevate the conversation, focus on the communities that need the amendment the most, and empower young people to carry this fight forward. We do this through focusing on the inequities that are seen in education and access to opportunities for young people as a result of their gender.

Everything is riding on this election

Nikhitha

These three young woman, and thousands like them across the country, fighting for equity in their own community are doing everything they possibly can, and they just ask that we vote. Though they are not old enough to participate in this election, they are encouraging everyone else, especially young voters, to cast their ballot.

“Everything is riding on this election,” Nikhita states. Her sentiments were echoed by Rosie and Sakhi who urge us to, “Make sure you know your state’s laws and when you need to vote.” Nikhitha continued, “4 million people, since 2016, have turned 18 and were of voting age for the 2018 midterms. We have to emphasize the importance of how much voting makes a difference.”

That is the power of the youth. The 4 million new voters who showed up in 2018 helped push progressive candidates and policies forward. These voters elected a record number of women to Congress; women who wore their Suffragist white and their ERA NOW pins to the State of the Union address in 2019.

Newly elected Representatives at the STOTU in 2019

This power is waiting to be harnessed in 2020, with even more young voters now of age. A shift in the occupation of the White House likely means the final steps of the ERA’s ratification process are a guarantee. A journey that began almost 100 years ago, could come to a close, and in the midst of this century long fight, a new movement has begun.

“What is so cool about our generation is that there are so many people that want to get involved, you just have to reach them,” Rosie states. Rosie is reaching them, thousands of them, and like Sakhi states, “Being involved in Generation Ratify has helped me understand what my priorities are, and I am going to continue.”

Rosie has created something that is pushing forward into the future, and about their generation, Nikhita adds, “We know a lot more than people credit us for. We can make change.”

Call to Action