Over a dozen students from across the city gathered at The Great Hall in Dorchester on Tuesday, October 25th to attended the mock debate, “They Don’t Want You to Vote,” hosted by Bigger Than My Block (BTMB).
BTMB is a non-profit organization that tackles the issue of the low number of college graduates in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by providing accessible resources which encourage teens to be on a path towards a college degree. Their educative event was aimed to inform both new voters and students who are still too young to vote, about the questions on the Massachusetts ballot and the importance of voting in both presidential and local elections.
“When we think about why we want people to go to college, it's really about empowerment and giving them the best opportunity to live a sufficient life. So when we think about voting, it's also the same idea,” said Renee Omolade, Program Coordinator at the Lewis Family Foundation, who emceed the event.
During the mock debate, question two on the November 8th ballot – which would authorize the state to add up to 12 new charter schools, at the cost of existing public schools - sparked an uproar. This question directly affects young people and their educational resources.
Those voting “yes” on question two are in favor of opening new charter schools to give students more options, even if it means taking money out the of budget from public schools. Those voting “no”, believe in investing in the public schools that are currently open in order to make public education better for everyone.
It's on questions like this that the youth voice must be heard, loud and clear.
Amidst the pandemonium concerning the distribution of resources for charter or public schools, a heartfelt and passionate debate, similar to the fiery townhouse debates between the presidential candidates, transpired.
No one knows more about the importance of voting in local elections than Monica Cannon, a Roxbury native who ran for State Representative earlier this year and lost by a mere 100 votes.
“Your state representative votes on your budget for the city,” said Cannon, who served as a guest commentator at the event. “The odds of you meeting Hillary Clinton are slim to none.” Cannon makes a critical point. Although presidential elections get all the glory, voting in local elections is equally crucial.
As the night progressed, the overall message to young voters remained the same: even if you feel your voice doesn’t matter or can’t be heard, young people still have a huge influence. It is important to vote in both presidential and local elections, despite the factors that may discourage you to do so. Its also critical that we do all of our research on ballot questions before casting a yes or no answer.
It’s a privilege to vote, therefore on November 8th, those who are 18 should take advantage of it. Without the option to vote, we are stripped of one of the significant rights we have as Americans.