Before I embarked on this project with NYC Votes, I had the chance to learn from Olivia Brady, a youth engagement coordinator at NYC Votes, at CUNY Roundtables, an event hosted by CUNY Votes and NYC Votes. My learning experience at the CUNY Roundtables motivated my goal to interview Brady to show how Olivia and NYC Votes are making a change in our community.
Olivia Brady(she/they) is a Youth Engagement Coordinator for NYC Votes. She has a Bachelors in Political Science & Government and Gender & Sexuality Studies from New York University. Over the last four years, Olivia has worked with many NYC public high schools through her job with NYC Votes. She is very passionate about NYC Votes, where she is focused on “empowering youth to participate in local politics through a curriculum that makes information about voting and government accessible.”
As the Youth Engagement Coordinator, Olivia works to “ensure that young people cannot only cast their ballots but will have the institutional knowledge they need to go further and become influencers in the local political process.”
NYC Votes is a nonpartisan initiative of New York City Campaign Finance (CFB) that employs different outreach types to increase voter registration, participation, engagement, and election fairness. NYC Votes is also “a city agency and is responsible for monitoring spending in local elections and conducting voter outreach to neighborhoods with historically low voter turnout.” Furthermore, NYC Votes are nonpartisan, and as a government agency, they “provide incredibly accurate and reliable information about voting and elections.” NYC Votes’ current goal is to get 250,000 young people to vote in the 2021 November general election. Their overall goal is to increase voter turnout and make all elections “fair, transparent, and accessible” to all New Yorkers regardless of race, class, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation, income, education, and English Proficiency level.
Olivia and NYC Votes are currently working on many incredible projects, but I chose what I felt was the most crucial concept, the new voting system, for the sake of this article.
You read that right, so get excited. There is a new voting system in NYC. If you are like me, there is a chance you are not aware of how the voting system works because it wasn’t a topic discussed in school. The voting system is how we choose our elected candidates.
Our new voting system is called “Ranked Choice Voting” (RCV). Olivia explained that the RCV is a “system of voting where you can rank up to 5 candidates in order of preference instead of choosing just one candidate”.
Here is an example:
Olivia stated that RCV provides more choice for voters. This will lead to a more diverse and reflective representation, thereby allowing for existing voters and future voters to have more of a say. Diversity in elected officials is essential, especially in NYC, where diversity is so prominent. RCV will also create more civility amongst candidates and increased participation amongst voters.
Ranked Choice Voting is so important now because of our upcoming local elections. If you are not aware, the following seats are available: Mayor, Comptroller, Borough President, District Attorney, and 35 City Council Members. Ranked Choice Voting was used in the March 23 Special Elections in the Bronx and will be used again for the June 22 Citywide primary election.
On March 13, I had the chance to meet Kevin Riley, a City Council member. He represents the 12th City Council District and is running for reelection. He was visiting co-op city and stopped by my home to introduce himself and talk to my family. My sister and I were super excited because he spoke of his plans to engage our youth in local politics. This conversation was necessary because, as current and future voters, we need to be aware of what the candidates stand for and what policies they plan to implement.
Olivia wants us to educate ourselves on the new voting system and learn about the candidates through reliable sites.
To learn more about ranked-choice voting, check out these resources www.nyccfb.info/rcvresources and a recently launched Ranked Choice Voting video which is available in 5 languages. Here are the links to watch it in these different languages:
Find the lists of the candidates running this year through the Candidates List and Voting.NYC - Official Site of NYC Votes. And for the unique election voter guide in Districts 11 and 15, check out this 2021 City Council Districts 11 and 15 Special Election Voter Guide.
In Olivia’s words, “40 seats are up for election in our City, young people should be excited to get out the vote and start making a massive change in who represents us at the local level.” And if you are a nonvoter youth like myself looking to get involved, Olivia suggests these three ways; learn about the voting system to help our eligible peers cast their ballots, teach our family members and friends about elections, and why voting is so important. Lastly, we can choose to volunteer with campaigns, including rallies, writing letters, or calling our elected officials.
To get involved, NYC Votes offers youth training sessions. Register at Youth Trainings, subscribe to their newsletter, and create an account at NYC Votes. Plus, don’t forget to check their social media sites @nycvotes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. And follow Olivia Brady to learn more about her work with voting and youth. Also, share the issues your vote has the power to change in 2021 and hashtag #WePowerNYC.
If you are thinking about getting into civic engagement, Olivia suggests to “Just get started”! Take a youth training class and learn how to register voters. In your school, the community spread the word about local elections but make sure to ask your teachers if you can share this information. There’s no action that’s too small when it comes to getting NYC to vote in this year’s election.”