This blog post was contributed by Muthu Meenakshisundaram, communications intern.
From middle school all the way through last summer, I’d start my summer days by trying to open my eyes, greeted by sunlight peeking through the window blinds. I’d roll over and blindly pat around the nightstand for my phone to check the time: It’s half past nine. I’d drag myself out of bed and start my day. After breakfast, I would watch some Netflix and YouTube for the rest of the day with meals in between. Occasionally, I’d go out and see some friends. It was a boring way to spend three months of time away from school. With social distancing measures in place throughout the world, this summer was poised to be even worse.
Then I learned about New Voters. It started with a video call about running a voter registration drive at my school. As I saw the enthusiasm with which the New Voters directors and president spoke about voter registration, I thought to myself, “I’ve gotta be a part of this somehow.” Soon after, I called a friend and we began drawing up plans for a drive at our school next fall. But thankfully, that’s not where my New Voters journey ended. I stumbled upon an internship application soon after, and even though I’ve never had an internship before, I was able to become a part of the New Voters Communications team for the summer.
One word I’d use to describe New Voters is “quality,” in two senses.
The work that gets done by the diligent folks here is always high quality. Research assignments are in-depth; writing is top-notch; graphic design is amazing; the communication, whether it’s within the organization or via outreach to schools, is thoughtful and kind; I could go on and on. The people here are smart and talented. From being exposed to their skills and work[a][b], I’ve improved as a writer, learned more about running a social media campaign, and become more disciplined.
Secondly, the people at New Voters are good people. Teammates are friendly and respectful, and directors are always helpful and accommodating. Recently, I mentioned to my director that I had an interest in law and that I’d love to work on any legal assignments. That very day, she connected me with another teammate and we worked together to confirm legal rights for some data that New Voters wanted to share on social media. During the course of this assignment, which wasn’t mine to begin with, my teammate was respectful of my thoughts and ideas and wholeheartedly collaborated with me — which was phenomenal! I’ve worked on programs with other students in the past where that was simply not the case. Once, an older student with whom I and ten others were working essentially “listened” to our ideas but ended up crafting the final proposal purely based on her thoughts. Since then, I’ve been wary of collaborating with older students for fear they might not consider my ideas. New Voters is remarkable in that even though its team is made up of high school students and college students, everyone always maintains civility and respect, and the organization is stronger for it.
Transcending all of that, the most striking thing about New Voters is the shared sense of hope and the conviction that, if more eligible citizens vote, our nation will be a better, more equitable place. When I first heard about our goal to register 100,000 students to vote before election day this November, I did a double take. I wondered how that goal could ever be attained. But over the past couple weeks, I’ve seen how. Time and time again in history, compassionate young people have banded together to fight for what they believe in. In the early 1970s, with more and more young men 18 years of age and older being drafted to serve in the unpopular Vietnam War, college students across the United States started peacefully protesting and writing letters advocating for their right to vote. If a citizen was old enough to die for their country, they ought to be old enough to vote, the students shouted. The nation heeded that cry as it ratified the Twenty-sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, lowering the voting age from 21 to 18. If we want to keep that right, we have to use it. We must safeguard what our predecessors fought for by exercising our own right to vote and ensuring that our fellow citizens do so as well. When more citizens vote, our elected officials are more receptive to and representative of our interests. How do I know we’ll reach our goal this year? It’s simple: Our country works better when more citizens vote, and that’s what drives New Voters.