With the 2020 election only a month away, the Boston Latin School Topol Fellows hosted a virtual webinar to inform attendees about important issues in regards to voting.
The event, which took place on October 2, revealed the extent of voter suppression in the United States and educated students on the various methods and policies used to hinder people from voting, the importance of the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and mail-in ballots in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This [event] is all part and parcel of a package of things that [the Topol Fellows] wanted to do to raise voter awareness as we move towards the election,” explains Ms. Judi Freeman, advisor to the Topol Fellows and Facing History and Ourselves teacher.
The Topol Fellows kicked off the webinar with an interactive Kahoot quiz about voter statistics throughout the country, followed by a slideshow presentation, which covered topics ranging from voter fraud to political rhetoric discouraging mail-in voting by the Trump administration. They wrapped up the event with a text banking activity where participants could text a number, which would automatically email legislators about the need to support the USPS.
“[The USPS doesn’t] have a lot of the resources that they need […] especially now that so many people are using postal service to get their vote in,” explains Topol Fellow Urvi Gipstein (I), regarding the motivation behind their advocacy for the USPS.
Webinar attendee Patty Huang (II) describes the event as engaging and impactful, stating, “It really highlighted the prevalence of voting issues throughout the country. […] The resources that the Topol Fellows provided for us to get registered and to support different causes were really helpful.”
The virtual event is only one of many initiatives that the Topol Fellows are implementing to encourage voter participation. Besides the webinar, they have been taking a more active role in ensuring that students have access to vote.
As students have been returning to campus to pick up textbooks, the Topol Fellows have been providing age-eligible seniors with packets containing voter registration forms, mail-in ballots and stamps. They also put together an informative document, which detailed the different ways to register and their respective deadlines.
“The right to vote is a precious thing, […] [yet] the number of people who actually vote are shockingly small relative to the people who could. It’s amazing, constantly, to me and the Topol Fellows […] that there are people who have that right and don’t use it, so imagine if [everybody voted] in the United States! I suspect [things] would [look different],” states Ms. Freeman.
As November 3 draws closer, the Topol Fellows plan to keep emphasizing the importance of voting. Topol Fellow Mandy Sun (I) concludes, “Civic engagement [has been] very low, and people [don’t] really care about civic duty; we really hope that this webinar in a sense, would awaken people to the fact that [these things] are extremely important [and] that they should pay attention to them.”
After the election, the Topol Fellows plan to host more events, such as the Moth Talks and Human Rights Day, which they hope will bring important issues and stories to the forefront of the school community.