“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.” – Abraham Lincoln
On Tuesday evening, 90+ young Philadelphians assembled at Triumph Brewery in Old City – but not just for microbrew drink specials. In the midst of a crucial election year, they came to better understand the importance of becoming involved in Philadelphia’s political scene.
Young Involved Philadelphia hosted the first event in the bi-annual Philly Politics 101/102 series. The impressive turnout of attendees signified that young Philadelphians already understand the urgency of their involvement in the issues impacting our city, state, and country. Young Involved Philadelphia organized this event as an opportunity for our demographic to learn more about the election process, voter registration, hot issues, key players, and how they can actually become involved.
Some admirable sponsors supported our event, including ElectNext. “It’s like eHarmony for elections” – and it really is. ElectNext was co-founded by Keya Dannenbaum and Paul Jungwirth with a mission to encourage people to cast an informed vote. ElectNext essentially matches up individuals with their appropriate political candidate based on where they stand on key political issues. It’s really that simple – log on to the site and answer a variety of questions on topics ranging from the economy, defense, energy, contraception, healthcare, immigration, and so on. Your responses to these questions generate the political candidates best suited for you, based on your views. So, rather than relying on your political party – or trying to filter through those negative campaign ads – we can actually become empowered and vote for representatives based on their political principles. How ‘bout that.
Keya Dannenbaum discussed the importance of our votes as individuals, and also on “wasted votes”. She pointed out a startling statistic – during the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary, the eligible voter turnout was 53%. However, during the 2011 Philadelphia Mayoral Primary, the eligible voter turnout was a mere 12%. Guilty of this myself, many residents will enthusiastically cast their presidential vote, but shy away from local politics, simply due to lack of information. Unfortunately, these “wasted votes” are imperative into shaping the community that we are a part of in on a day-to-day basis.
Also sponsoring the event was the Committee of Seventy, which is a Philadelphia-based not-for-profit, non-partisan organization that encourages a “better government, fair elections and an honest political culture.” Luke McKinstry from the Committee of Seventy spoke regarding Pennsylvania’s new voter ID law effective this November, which will require all voters to present identification each time they go to the polls. The Committee of Seventy hopes to educate voters on what they need to know regarding these changes, and encouraged us to spread the word so that the voice of our demographic continues to be heard.
Finally, we were fortunate to have City Commissioner Al Schmidt attend our event, along with Deputy Commissioner Tracey Gordon. Commissioner Schmidt encouraged us to become involved in making a change in Philadelphia – and to consider running (even against him!) for political office. He also encouraged the group to demand fair knowledge, and advised us to utilize the resources available at the City Commissioner’s office such as polling data and candidate information so that we can become informed and confident voters. Deputy Gordon encouraged us to spread the word to our demographic on how we can become involved in our political community via social media and our networking circles. I left the event persuaded that my informed vote is vital in promoting the change I would like to see in my city, and that, yes; even I could actually run for office someday.