In politics, as in life, sometimes the most effective way to make waves and get things done is to meet people exactly where they are. Right now, it seems like everyone is in line at Popeyes, hoping they’ll be lucky enough to get their hands on one of its new, insanely popular (and often sold out) chicken sandwiches.
So that’s exactly where 17-year-old Charlotte, North Carolina, high school senior David Ledbetter went on Saturday in hopes of getting locals excited about an upcoming election ― and registered to vote.
It started when Ledbetter, who also co-founded a nonprofit in 2018 called Imagine This that works to prepare young people for college and careers, decided he wanted to engage with his community more directly. So, earlier this year, he began volunteering for Stephanie Sneed, who is currently running a school board campaign. When they realized how many people were flocking to the popular chicken chain to try and nab one of its new sandwiches, they saw a unique opportunity to make a difference.
“We noticed the trend of everyone wanting to try the new chicken sandwich and thought of the idea,” he told HuffPost on Monday.
Though the school board election is not until November, there is a congressional special election in Charlotte on Sept. 10. After Sneed and Ledbetter discovered that only a few residents had participated in early voting, they came up with a plan. Realizing they could capitalize on the fact that customers had to wait in long lines for a Popeyes chicken sandwich, which debuted in early August and has been flying out of the chain’s doors ever since, they made their move.
They headed to an area Popeyes location on Saturday and chatted with “dozens” of locals, Sneed said. While they did not campaign for any particular campaign or candidate, Ledbetter and Sneed did register individuals to vote and handed out information about early voting and who is on the upcoming ballot.
“It felt good to do a service to the community, to engage them in a political way,” he told HuffPost.
Ledbetter, especially, felt strongly about reaching out to people not typically targeted by politicians ― young people like himself.
“I think it’s very important because that’s the way to exercise your opinion, especially those who want to improve the local community, where decisions made impact the people directly,” he said. “I have a passion for increasing young people’s involvement. The youth is the future, and I believe we should amend some of these political views and subjects and aid the youth in their upcoming years.”
The response from people waiting in line was mostly positive, Ledbetter noted. “There were a few individuals who weren’t interested in voting,” he said, “but overall there were not negative reactions. Usually it was individuals who wanted to vote and who we managed to register.”
Ledbetter and Sneed weren’t immediately able to give an exact number of people they had registered by the end of the day, but Ledbetter remarked on how nice it was to help people get politically activated. Sneed said people were especially excited to see someone who isn’t even old enough to vote yet inspiring others to do so.
“People are of course very impressed and receptive to seeing someone so young out there, which made a huge difference,” Sneed said. “He is awesome, awesome, awesome.”