Philadelphia has significant problem when it comes to voting, especially when the focus is on municipal elections rather than national. Of all folks who fall into the roughly 75 to 80 percent of registered voters who opt-out of voting, Generation-X and Millennials are by far the least likely to vote, according to statistics.
Knowing that this issue is nearly systemic in nature, it’s important to understand why young voters choose to not get involved.
More importantly, a variety of organizations around the city are working tirelessly to not just register voters but also educate them on the critical issues that could affect them. If the Millennials show up at the polls, rest assured that theses organizations played a significant role.
Young Involved Philadelphia, Unity in the Community and Influencing Action Movement came together with the nonpartisan national political action committee CROWDPAC to put together a Young Voter Education Week, just a week before the May municipal primary. The plan is to repeat these events prior to any election in Philadelphia.
Young Involved Philadelphia has been around for more than a decade and has worked diligently in this election cycle to raise voter engagement and education through a myriad of methods.
“Our overarching goal when we approach pretty much anything within YIP,” said Mike Thomas of YIP, “is to remove barriers for young adults in the city.”
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By Zachary Rendin
The PCCY (Public Citizens for Children and Youth) is an advocacy organization that works toward ensuring all children in Pennsylvania receive a proper and equitable education.
On April 22, the PCCY had its “Young Voter Action Day” where 50 young voters from Southeastern Pennsylvania loaded up on a bus in Center City, Philadelphia and headed to the state capital in Harrisburg.
The young voters were there to lobby state legislators and their staff to make passing a fair educational funding formula a policy priority. The 50 young education advocates were broken into groups of 10 and were assigned specific legislators to visit; some had scheduled appointments and others were drop-ins.
Most of the legislators and their staff were very pleased to see citizen action for education by such a young group, particularly Brianda Freistat, policy advisor for Pennsylvania House Majority Rep. Leader David Reed, (R).
“I know that he [Reed] will be happy to see so many young people who care about this issue and are willing to take the day off to come visit the capital,” said Freistat.
Education funding is a priority of newly elected Governor Tom Wolf, and the tone of most legislators and staffers said it’s a priority that is set to be included in the FY 2016 budget proposal. For the most up to date information about fair funding for Pennsylvania schools visit fairfundingpa.org.
By Zachary Rendin
Code for Philly, a brigade member of the Code for America organization, organized an Apps for Democracy hackathon. The event brought together journalist, data-scientist, programers, and web-designers, who spent their entire weekend in the City of Philadelphia’s Innovation Lab. The civic hackers are all brought together with the idea that they can create positive civic change through the use of technology.
The idea of a hackathon is to utilize open-data sets, that in this case were provided by the City of Philadelphia, to create projects that contribute to the democratic process. The event informally began in the City Council Caucus room on Friday night, this event was free and open to the public. Attendees were welcomed to the caucus room to pitch project ideas, that were then neatly laid out on a large round table set in the middle of the room. If an attendee liked the idea, they would place a gold star on the piece of poster paper the idea was explained on.
Saturday morning, the hackathon officially kicked off. The top rated project leaders recruited a variety of skill-sets for their idea. It seems some core elements are programers, designers, developers and a good researcher; if you are building a map a GIS expert would be a key member.
The main projects developed were: Phillywardleaders.com, Philly Vote Check, a candidate comparison shopper, campaign finance transparency application and a map that combined voter participation combined with US census data in the 40th Ward of the city.
The hackathon serves as just a starting point for many of the projects; they are then continued to be developed at Code For Philly’s weekly meet-ups. The meet-ups typically take place at Devnuts, a technology co-working space in the Northern Liberties.
For more information about the projects from the hackathon visit codeforphilly.org.