This post features guest writers Sophie Majteles and Elle Wisnicki, former interns at Planned Parenthood of New York City and current student leaders.
On National Voter Registration Day, Planned Parenthood of New York City is helping New Yorkers register to vote through the My Vote, My Voice campaign. My Vote, My Voice is part of a national campaign that was launched this summer in which Planned Parenthood volunteers in 45 states are registering people in their local communities, including visitors to Planned Parenthood health centers, so that their voices are heard on Election Day regardless of their background, beliefs, or political ideology. Since early August, PPNYC has been registering New Yorkers to vote and will continue to do so until the October 14th registration deadline.
Planned Parenthood of New York City provides essential health care services to more than 64,000 patients each year. Our patients include people from all incomes, backgrounds, races, ethnicities, and they often face hurdles when trying to participate in the political process. The My Voice, My Vote campaign hopes to assist people in overcoming some of those hurdles by helping people register to vote.
Nobody can attest to the importance of this more than former Health Center Advocacy Program interns Sophie Majteles and Elle Wisnicki, who spent months at PPNYC health centers raising awareness about our education programs and advocacy priorities, and empowering people to make their voice heard through initiatives like voter registration. They spoke to PPNYC's Director of Community Organizing Stephanie Demmons about why they believe it is so important to help people register to vote.
Stephanie: Why do you vote?
Sophie: When I turned 18, I realized I didn't have much information about voting. I wasn't sure how to register in my state, I didn't know which local elections were relevant to me, and I didn't fully comprehend the value of my right to vote. When I became a volunteer at PPNYC, I saw the impact of politics on people's everyday lives. I saw that bodies from City Councils to the United States Congress don't adequately reflect the demographics of the country they serve. I began to understand voting as one of the most important tools I have to advance issues that matter to me, my family, and my community.
Elle: Every elected official, from City Council members to the president, shapes our country's laws. Laws are often racialized and gendered in outcome. So I vote in local elections because I know that each and every judge, assemblyman, committeeman, state senator, representative, and more are sitting in a room making sure their voice is heard. Do their voices reflect the needs of people like me, a young woman of color?
Stephanie: Why is it so important to make sure that nobody faces barriers to voting?
Sophie: Because of voter disenfranchisement, too many Americans aren't able to exercise their vote to advance issues that matter to them and their communities. Single women, people of color, and young people under 30 are the majority of eligible voters in America and traditionally have had obstacles in their path to the ballot box. In order for us to live in a true democracy where all people are represented, especially those that have been marginalized, we must exercise our right to vote and prioritize the fight for voting rights to ensure that the traditionally disenfranchised are able to participate in elections.
Elle: We have the responsibility to do our best to stay informed about the politicians and legislation in our communities, and make sure that traditionally disenfranchised people can do the same.
Stephanie: Why is it essential that Planned Parenthood of New York City help get people in the community registered to vote?
Sophie: Our elected officials do not always have the interests of Planned Parenthood's communities at heart. This is made evident by the failure to abolish the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding towards abortion, and creates a huge and unnecessary obstacle for low-income people seeking reproductive and sexual health care. By helping people register to vote, PPNYC is helping to making sure that everyone's interests are represented in the political process.
Elle: Voting is a fundamental right and a great way to participate in our democracy. By working with partners across the country, Planned Parenthood of New York City is working to ensure that everyone - regardless of their positions or partisan leanings - is able to seize their power as voters.