The City of Philadelphia announced Tuesday that the Mayor’s Office of Youth Engagement (OYE) is launching a youth-led voter registration effort leading up to the Nov. 3 general election involving contactless registration via T-shirts.
The First Vote 2020 initiative, launched last year to get members of Gen Z — many of whom are newly eligible to vote — registered and informed for this year’s elections. The initiative is aimed at engaging with young people about the ways they can exercise civic participation up to Election Day. Throughout the spring, First Vote 2020 efforts supported the work of census-focused Philly Counts and get-out-the-vote programs such as Vote that Jawn.
Now, as the voter registration deadline of Oct. 19 nears for Pennsylvania voters, volunteers will be wearing VRTees, or voter registration T-shirts, while engaging their peers, friends and family about voting.
The shirts are printed with QR codes on the back, which link to the Pennsylvania voter registration application and an application for a mail-in ballot. The QR code eliminates the need for close contact, and for volunteers to stand in high-traffic locations. With the shirts, volunteers can keep a safe distance, and won’t be responsible for turning in paper forms, OYE said.
“OYE had always intended on having youth volunteers conduct voter registration drives heading into the fall, but the emergence of COVID-19 forced [us] to be a bit more innovative,” Irene Contreras Reyes, the Mayor’s Office’s deputy communications director told Technical.ly. “They knew that QR codes would strike a great balance between being socially distanced and civically engaged. And, it would allow the wearer of the shirt to take voter registration wherever they went — as opposed to posting up at a particular site all day.”
Young people interested in supporting the initiative can sign up to volunteer via this form. Shirts are in limited supply, so first come, first served, OYE said. Volunteers will be told via email when and where they can pick up their shirts.
“Gen Z has this unique way of commanding the conversation and driving our collective attention towards the issues that they care about,” said Jeanette Bavwidinsi, director of the OYE, in a statement. “They genuinely want better for their communities, our city, and this nation — and they won’t stop until they see real change. Many of them know that change includes voting.”
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