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Behind the Scenes: #16ToVote Advocacy Project and the Guy with a Plan!

A picture of me in Colorado being interviewed during my walk across the United States in 2015. I had just passed a little more than the halfway point in early August of that year.

New blog address, new effort to lower the voting age! But before I get into the details, I think an introduction would be proper.

My name is Jester Jersey and I was born, raised and live in California. For many years, I have been a supporter of lowering the voting age to 16. The story is long, so I’ll save it for another blog post. For now, I want to just introduce you to some basic stuff about me.

Although I’ve lived in California for many years, I had the opportunity to travel extensively in 2015, when I walked across the United States from New York City to San Francisco. At the time, I had just joined Kiwanis a few years back and wanted to help promote the Eliminate Project.

I was a little surprised at the media attention it got, as I was on several papers of cities I had traveled to and even on local television a few times, like with the pic above. I am hoping to have a more focused campaign that deals specifically with lowering the voting age, and I’ll be detailing what I can.

If you’re here, you’re probably interested in helping to lower the voting age to 16. You might have also stumbled onto my blog or was referred here to learn about the new movement. Either reason is fine. If you’re curious about wanting to help out and are convinced you want to help after reading my blog post in the next few weeks, then reach out to me. If you can’t help directly, there are other ways you can still help. Just leave a comment here or contact me through Twitter and I’ll fill you in on how you can help. Thanks!

Jester Jersey

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#16ToVote Advocacy Project 2020

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Hi everyone,

My name is Jester Jersey and I am behind the #16ToVote Advocacy Project. This project will be a movement to unite as many supporters of lowering the voting age to 16, raise awareness of the movement nationwide, provide support to current movements throughout the U.S., and a speaking tour in order to attract media attention to the cause.

This blog website will be my base of online operations. I have also linked my new Twitter account that I want to use for this special project, in addition to my other account, @DavisKiwanian, which I will use for support for my main one and act as a backup in case it is needed. Please keep this blog and my main Twitter account bookmarked so that you can get all the info you need during the campaign and speaking tour, as I will be updating both as frequently as possible.

Meanwhile, feel free to email at the email address I used to contact your organization with. I hope to try to update this blog weekly prior to the campaign so that I do not have to message each organization individually, but feel free to contact me at the method most appropriate for your inquiry.

Thank you for reading. I look forward to keeping everyone who is active in some form of the movement in the United States updated, regardless of where you are operating from or how long your movement has been active. I look forward to working with all the organizations I can, bring awareness to the movement in general to as broad an audience as possible, and perhaps, with your help, finally actually lower the voting age to 16 to more cities outside Maryland wherever possible.

With your help, we can make it happen together!

-Jеstеr Jеrsеy

Chances

A map of places where felon who have been convicted can vote, depending on the state’s laws. Recent debate has been opened up once again on restoring the eligibility of voters who’ve been previously convicted of crimes. (Map courtesy of wuwf88.1)

The recent elections have once again touched on the subject of whether convicted felons should have their voting rights restored after they’ve served their time. Many people support giving offenders a second chance, particularly when issues affecting them after they’ve been released from prison will continue to do so after they’ve been released. However, recent elections have caused confusion on the topic. Depending on where one calls home, the level of voting restoration also differs, as some are able to vote as soon as they’re released while other states throw a bunch of hurdles that prevent those with prior convictions from participating their democratic right.

In the state of Florida for example, where the issue has been the focal point of recent debates, as Amendment Four, which looked to restore the voting rights of those previously convicted, has met with some confusion and obstacles by Florida voters.

While former Florida felons do get their vote restored, it is often after they have paid fines associated with their incarceration. In the event a felon has failed to completely pay their fine, they are sometimes charged with voter fraud, which has happened to several potential voters. The Real News editor-in-chief Maximillian Alvarez, who hosts a politically independent-oriented podcast, spoke to Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani about the confusion.

Mansa Musa, the podcast co-host, also contributed to the discussion, likening the idea of being incarcerated for voting because you were previously incarcerated, to the Jim Crow era, arguing that “in 2022, [we] find ourselves in this place of Georgia, Alabama, 1960 Ku Klux Klan, stalking the polls to have us in this state of mind where now we legislate this terror and lock people up, it’s beyond […] imagination”.

If being incarcerated is beyond one’s imagination, then imagine what it is like to be unable to vote, despite being expected to pay taxes, be able to drive vehicles on publicly supported roads and still not be able to have a say on issues that affect you and your peers. That is just as imaginative, and one’s only fault is just not being old enough.

Keep supporting lowering the voting age and common sense voting reforms in order to correct these injustices. Not only do felons deserve chances, but youth voters deserve to have their first chance to vote too.

Jester Jersey

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Pandemics & Tests

Patrick Henry High School in San Diego, CA. Not only is it the site of a secondary educational institution, it’s also the location of a respiratory outbreak. (photo courtesy of KPBS)

This week, ACT scores were released for this past summer’s graduating class, revealing the effects the COVID pandemic has had on the recent educational experience for many students across the U.S. from the previous school year. The results aren’t good- scores have been at their lowest since the early 90s. Many attribute this dip to a less than tactile educational approach that the pandemic has forced upon many school districts across the U.S. in the last two years as a result of remote learning. One could write a whole article on the issue of remote learning alone, but the focus of today’s article is on the actual schooling experience itself.

In the same week, a respiratory ailment has caused more than a thousand students from two San Diego high schools to miss out on classes. The two schools, Patrick Henry(pictured above) as well as Del Norte High School had a combined student absence of more than 1,500. This is being attributed to an early case of this year’s flu season, which like the Coronavirus pandemic that has caused us to pause life as we knew it more than two years ago, now threatens this early school year’s progress of going back to school after many students opted to continue learning from home.

These two stories highlights the complex dynamics between the pandemic and the high school experience for many. Across the U.S., very few high schools have actual students on their school boards- in contrast to places like Berkeley and Oakland school districts, also in California, which have included 16-year old youths to their board, and perhaps other school boards in the U.S., not too many other districts are able to advocate for the well-being of their fellow peers. At times, students have had to confront those who weren’t always supportive of the option to wear masks in the midst of the pandemic, as in this viral story from Florida earlier this year documents.

In regards to test scores themselves, the NPR reported that inequities prior to the pandemic have become even more apparent, as remote learning required many low-income students to deal with the need to acquire materials, such as a computer, internet service and other items to conduct remote learning. This doesn’t even mention the further unequal financial burden associated with the move, i.e. families needing to stay home from work to watch younger children previously sent to daycares, sign up for internet services as well as provide meals to their child who is learning remotely. Because of these challenges, some higher education institutions have adapted to the situation, dropping the requirement that traditional college entrance exam scores not be taken into consideration on applications.

Unfortunately, high schools have not or may not be as accommodating. The lack of students on school boards likely plays a role in this, as resources to help students during the pandemic might not always be allocated to less privileged students to continue their learning.

With regards to the pandemic itself, or even the new outbreak of flu in school like the ones being seen in the two San Diego high schools, students have often clashed with their schools in favor of keeping mask mandates, such as this story last year from a student who spoke at his local school board. It is safe to assume that at his school, the school board has not integrated youths to weigh in on the issues affecting them at their center of learning. This narrative likely plays out in many other places, often times where youth are trying to do what’s best for them and even those around them.

Of course, the larger argument is autonomy itself, about getting the vote for the youth who actually attend their schools. This may not have applied to the outbreaks in San Diego, but it could have. Students could shape how the district responds to this or other similar cases if this starts happening nationwide. It’s hard to say whether doing this would improve student test scores looking at the whole picture, but if students feel the need to continue mask mandates at their school, it would guarantee students actually showed up to their classes rather than missing them, and possibly increasing their scores on entrance exams.

The main point is students should have the vote- we have the legislation to make it happen, and we just need to get it passed so youth lives are improved with regards to all things pertaining their educational experience.

-Jester Jersey

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Youth Rights & The Abortion Question

Protesters supporting abortion rights. This summer saw abundant protests nationwide after the decision on Roe v. Wade was overturned in June.(Photo courtesy of Gregg Pachkowski)

Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling status quo set by the decision on the Roe vs. Wade case from half a century ago. At a time when healthcare is top of mind for many after going through an ongoing pandemic and with our national health infrastructure grappling with its response to the pandemic for the last two years, basic rights of autonomy regarding maternal care are now being called into question, even for those needing an abortion for whatever reason. In this fray, youth are caught up in a mess of politics in which they still don’t have a say.

Take this case last month in Florida for example: recently, a parentless young woman applied to get an abortion on the grounds that she cannot care for the child. However, she was denied on the basis that she lacked “maturity” to make a sufficient decision for herself, despite her being the one most affected by the decision making around her, forcing her to carry a child to term despite not having a means to care for the child.

The 16-year old girl had to navigate tons of paperwork just to get a hearing in the first place, and despite being of working-age, and therefore paying taxes on any kind of work she could secure, she was deemed immature to get an abortion. One could argue if this had been in a state where there are active efforts to lower the voting age, or in places where it has been lowered, like several municipalities in Maryland, that could have been brought up as an argument to show that if one is mature enough to select their elected representatives to represent them in government, then one should be mature enough to make decisions on their own behalf on health issues that affects their own body. However, this isn’t the case.

If you think efforts to make voting more difficult for people from last year was hard, imagine being denied an abortion on the grounds that, “Yes, despite you being of working & childbearing-age, carrying a developing child to term within your own body, eligible to pay taxes on income you earn from employment, autonomous enough to get a vaccine without parental consent to stop the spread of a virus that caused a global pandemic, we still deem you not mature enough to make a health decision that will affect the course of your life despite not having any means to support the life of the child you now carry.” Many who seek out abortions in the first place are the people who don’t always have a means to care for themselves, let alone another life.

When you consider that, like the efforts to make voting harder, there are yet others who are making abortion harder as well, even after the results of overturning the national status quo regarding abortions, then you have a catastrophic mix of individuals unable to make decisions about their own healthcare, let alone elected representatives, while the need to support unplanned births in communities nationwide. This benefits no one.

Lowering the voting age nationwide through House Joint Resolution 23 demonstrates the impact for not only working-age youth to have a say in how the taxed income from their earnings are used by their elected representatives, but to also have a say in their own healthcare with regards to maternal care decisions.

-Jester Jersey

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Economic Uncertainty During A Pandemic

Climate protesters supporting the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which has some legislation to address current climate challenges and other more recent issues that have surfaced as of this year (Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

The news has had no shortage of reporting on the record-high inflation many consumers have been facing for the last few months. Although gas prices have been decreasing for the last two months straight, other expenses have not, such as those in the rental market and at the grocery store. With the pandemic still in the background as summer wraps up amid other issues, youth in the climate change efforts have had some recent gains with the Inflation Reduction Act.

The Inflation Reduction Act(IRA) was recently passed to address a number of issues that have arose in light of the recession fears, including addressing taxes and providing relief for those who invest in greener technologies, to tackling some aspects of climate change and relief for seniors who are dependent on prescription medication. Of course, the IRA is also looking to address current effects of inflation, which has been plaguing the economy the last few months much like COVID has with the global economy the last two and a half years. It is estimated that passage of the bill means more than $300 billion in consumer savings on all of the above in some form or another.

Some argue that the legislation doesn’t go far enough, as inflation will likely will be a problem months after the legislation is signed, providing only a short-term bandage fix to the economy. Others argue it is taking “some small steps in the right direction” according to Lundy Wright, partner and portfolio manager at Weiss Multi-Strategy Advisers. Although Wright believes the name of the bill is misleading, he admits “a longer-term clean energy plan has been glaringly lacking from recent policies, this … is a positive step, even if its immediate impact is very low”. Indeed, some efforts are better than nothing, and this passage of the IRA does provide some hope for passing other legislation that is oriented towards youth, such as H.J. Resolution 23, which would lower the national voting age to 16.

While the IRA bill doesn’t necessarily focus solely on climate change, it does do a good job of taking small steps in addressing issues that are youth-specific, such as climate matters involving investing in greener technologies, as youth have also been much affected by the rise in prices for everything the last few months, making a difference in how much a guardian can provide for them, or the case of more autonomy, how much they can provide for themselves.

The bill also indirectly addresses the need for more involvement by those who will be affected by the longer-term effects of climate change for longer periods of time. As climate change issues continue to be discussed during one of the hottest years on record, more youth voices should be incorporated to address both short-term issues such as economic inflation and long-term issues such as climate. The next step to do this is by passing House Joint Resolution 23.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Germany Closer to Enfranchising Youth Voters!

Germany moves closer to lowering their national voting age to 16. Some regions of the country already have done so while neighbouring Austria had already lowered its national voting age years ago. (photo courtesy of the @dpa)

In what could be game-changing news for fellow youth enfranchisers around the world, Germany could be the next major nation to enfranchise 16-year olds nationwide. Last year, Berlin News reported that supporters of the move did not have the votes to make a change happen. However, after last September’s elections and recent events leaning towards that direction, a majority of liberal supporters, including the original backers of the move prior to last year’s election along with another liberal German faction, now have the majority to make this reform possible for the near future.

Although only 5 of the 16 German states currently have an avenue for 16-year olds to vote in political affairs, current supporters trying to nationalize the efforts say other states most likely will join the currents ones. The SPD faction leader, Raed Saleh, who leads one of several liberal factions within the German government also stated that “It’s high time for Berlin,” arguing that in German states where the voting age was lowered, many young people took advantage of their new right.

The German efforts to enfranchise more youth are also part of the global efforts to lower the voting age to 16 in countries around the world that I wrote about in May’s blog post. The coalition continues to grow, and we’re always looking for new global allies to help enfranchise fellow.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Juneteeth #16ToVote

A graphic used to announce the Juneteenth observance. Although it was on Sunday, June 19th, it is observed on Monday, the 20th.(photo source)

Today’s blog might be redundant, but the continued fight for basic civil rights bears repeating. On this Juneteenth observance day, one should remember many in society today that were not afforded voting, democratic rights simply because of their status in life. These include gender, racial/ethnicity factors, ownership of property and many other disqualifying factors.

Even in an era where Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other civil rights pioneers are household names, and many people are now beginning to realize the importance of Juneteenth observations, democracy still isn’t a democracy unless those who have a stake in not only current events get a voice, but future events as well. Today, that new frontier of enfranchisement is getting the vote for those 16 years old who have been paying taxes to the government towards the income they earn; being affected by many global issues that they will inherit as democratic leaders; & being the ones to need to find solutions to these problems that current leaders may either be unable to or unwilling to solve at this time, only to pass the buck to the generation after them without care to pass on their insight and even resources to address.

Rather than going through all the reasons why expanding youth enfranchisement is important, I should remind readers that there are already 45 previous editions of this monthly blog that discusses the merits, advantages to democracy as well as the overall improvement of democracy that shows why we should lower the voting age to 16.

All throughout the world, individual movements are beginning to gather to see how we can best coordinate those efforts. As last month’s blog shows, there is a global collaborative working together across various regions to see how we can best help each other.

If the people we’re helping to enfranchise now, and conversely working with us to help enfranchise themselves, are one day going to be the same people working to make the world a better place in their respective regions around the world, then the efforts we’re working on now to lower the voting age should be one of the ways we can participate in the democratic process as well as train future leaders on how to work with their global counterparts.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Vote16 Across the World: #16ToVote Goes Global!

The webpage for the Vote16 World movement. It’s still a work in progress, but the coalition is progressing on many efforts around the world to enfranchise more youth.

This month, the movement to lower the voting age has gone global! Several youth organizations from around the world have begun organizing to lower the voting age in their respective regions.

Places where active campaign are currently taking place, including the U.S., Canada and others have joined forces with both places that have gained some rights for youth like the U.K. as well as new allies in New Zealand to work together to give each other support.

Although the joint alliance is new, the efforts by many members isn’t. In fact, now would be a great time to work together to address global issues that affect many young people around the world, such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as well as the continue threat of climate change. Not only can youth now work together across the globe to begin addressing issues relevant to them, but they can also start trying to address issues relevant to their own regions that their peers may not be affected by.

Our years of tireless, persistent efforts have finally started to pay off. Now, we not only have a very real chance of spreading democracy around the world, but we can also make real change happen that a newer generation of young people can be a part of, something that many youth organizations have been trying to achieve recently. Now that a global website is up and running, we have an online resource to organize around.

No matter where you’re located in the world, we have ways of now joining together with other global movements to lower the voting age to 16, and we now have the allies, means and opportunity to do just this.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

No Taxation without Representation: Time to Mobilize!

As the globe just marked the second year we have been affected by the pandemic, entering into our third as of last month, youth continue to be affected by ageist policies. The world continues to contend with the pandemic in some parts, while in many places youth still contribute to local economies, even during the pandemic, without being able to vote. Sadly, this continues even in the United States. Yesterday, April 15th, was Income Tax Day. Despite many young people working even in this pandemic environment, paying taxes locally on the wages they have earned, they have yet to get a vote. House Joint Resolution 23 can change this.

Right now, there are many organizations in the United States trying to address this issue. Some have been working only recently, in the last few years, while others have been around for decades. Others have been working locally, often at a local municipality capacity, while others also work nationally, sometimes on a regional basis. In some cases, we even have international allies we work with who are supportive of our efforts. However, it has only been in the last year that efforts to organize all these efforts to work together to collaborate on House Joint Resolution 23.

House Joint Resolution 23 still awaits a vote in the House of Representatives, while many groups working to collaborate on the issue await the time to take an active approach. I continue to monitor the progress often and keep our network of allies up to date on any developments. Whether or not this bill passes will depend on whether all supporters of lowering the voting age to 16 in the United States work together or not. In the case of the former, we just might have a chance at changing democracy for the better, like so many other nations that have already enfranchised youth. In the case of the latter, youth making contributions now, including areas hit hard by the pandemic, or where youth-specific issues are most prevalent, will continue to go without a vote for years, when these issues may not be as relevant but still affecting their younger peers. These issues will always affect someone, and right now, we have the tools, resources and allies to remedy this for youth in the short term while also making democracy better in the long term.

I would like to keep in touch with others if you’re not already in touch. House Joint Resolution 23 is an important piece of legislation that could help our efforts locally, regionally and nationally, at a time when youth are also affected by the pandemic, contributing towards those efforts while also still trying to address issues of ageism, like taxation without representation, climate change, school safety issues as some regions return to an in-person school environment and many other issues that supporters of lowering the voting age have been supporting since calls began to support expanding democracy to unenfranchised youth.

We have an opportunity to change the political landscape. Just like how we are obligated to do what we can to participate in our democracy, we should also do what we can to make voting easier, more accessible to our future leaders.

As House Joint Resolution 23 awaits a vote, we need to continually strategize effectively until we can get the bill passed when it does come up for a vote. For this reason, I and other allies will be reaching out to both groups and individuals, no matter how what efforts you’re working on or how large your groups are. Any help makes a difference. No movement is too small to make a difference in this effort.

If one person can make a difference, then we can achieve greater success on this issue if we work together. It is important that we share our resources and skills to work together to get this bill passed. Please get in touch with me if you we’re not already in communication with each other. We cannot let this important opportunity slip by!

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Unexpected First Responders

The COVID-19 pandemic has left a shortage of many things, including medical supplies, volunteers & even emergency medical technicians. Some high school youth have picked up the slack to help their communities.(Photo courtesy of Jane Kenney)

During the last two years, shortages abound during the difficult time. As hospitals filled up while store shelves became empty, another pandemic shortage occurred in the emergency medical technicians field, otherwise known as EMTs. However, one New York Community found an interesting, innovative solution to address the first responder shortage.

High schoolers in Sackets Harbor have recently volunteered to take up ambulance services at a time when cities attempted to mandate vaccinations. When the regular volunteers were unable to carry out their duties, Sackets Harbor youth stepped in to fill the role.

Grayden Brunet, now 20, first joined when he was 16, saying “My whole time being an officer here has been COVID (laughter). So it’s definitely been a learning experience… We came in one day and realized we were the only ones coming in”, referring to a time when vaccine mandates forced them to be the only responding staff as some of their colleagues protested the mandates.

Like in last month’s post about youth stepping up to get vaccinated, youth have also been active contributors to the pandemic, both stopping the spread of & helping people affected by the virus. Not to mention that EMT services also help non-COVID patients get the emergency services they need.

When asked about what it’s been like being a young EMT in light of COVID, Brunet says ” it’s definitely been a learning experience”. It’s probably a lesson many youth are learning as the pandemic has shown they’re often more autonomous than they give themselves credit for.

If you can trust youth who don’t have a vote to save your life in an emergency situation, you can trust them to choose the next leader of a democracy.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com

Vaccines & Voting

Nicolas Montero, who is the focus of today’s post. Montero, 16 recently received a vaccine without his parent’s approval, is an example of why youth should have a vote. (Photo by Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

As COVID enters its third pandemic year, we take a look at how the multi-year event has impacted some youth. One of particular focus today comes from NPR News of a 16-year old who had to hide his plans to get vaccinated from his anti-vax parents.

Nicolas Montero, a 16-year old who resides in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, was recently vaccinated against his parent’s wishes, and needed to hide his attempt to get the vaccine. Before Montero could get a COVID vaccine, he had to travel to Philadelphia to do so. Fortunately, Montero had the means to get vaccinated. Other youth in his situation don’t always have the accessibility, and depending on where they lived, their local legislature may or may not be anymore helpful than trying to get one through their parents.

As a volunteer researcher with several organizations fighting COVID-19, this story resonates well with me for the argument of lowering the voting age, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are several points worth mentioning in this article that support an idea of a lower voting age, especially to 16- Montero himself was 16; he was employed, and therefore paying taxes on the income he earned; and even a city regulation permitted him to get vaccinated.

Montero took his own initiative to get the vaccine, against his parent’s wishes, because opportunities existed and he wanted to do what he believed was the right thing, to not only protect himself and his immediate family but to also help protect those in his community as well as help end the pandemic.

Montero’s case shows how much of a double standard many youth still live through, even while going through a pandemic like the rest of the voting populace. At 16, Montero, like many of his peers nationwide, are: eligible to get vaccinated, can consent to getting vaccinated, are eligible to work, pay taxes and are just affected by the pandemic as everyone else. Yet despite being able to get vaccinated, traveling some distance from his home, he still doesn’t have a vote. In other words, you can consent to something that could have life-saving consequences for your own health, which can have immediate consequences for you and those around you, but you cannot vote on other issues that might affect you for longer periods of time, like climate change, gun control and where your taxes are going to. This is not right.

I urge all supporters of lowering the voting age to support H J Res 23. While it might not enfranchise all youths, it can enfranchise a substantial number of our future democratically-participating peers to make their own decisions that affect their health and other issues.

Jеstеr Jеrsеy

DavisKiwanian@mail.com