18th ward Democrats hold non-partisan voter registration event

The event featured break dancing group Box Won, a slime making station and another table for kids to make “register to vote” signs.

Ambra Robinson paints a voter registration sign at the 2018 Breaking the Ballots event.

The 18th Ward Democrats put on the inaugural Breaking the Ballots event Saturday afternoon, which was a non-partisan voter registration drive that encouraged young people to register to vote before Tuesday’s registration deadline to vote in the upcoming November elections. It also encouraged kids younger than voting age to learn about the civic process and motivated them to vote in the future.

“I began to vote personally because at one point, being a female, I did not have the right to vote,” said 18th ward committeewoman Venise Whitaker, who helped organize the event. “My parents were immigrants — they didn’t have the right to vote. So when I turned 18 I wanted to vote and I wanted my voice heard.”

The event featured break dancing group Box Won, a slime making station and another table for kids to make “register to vote” signs.

Whitaker wanted to engaged kids below voting age “because it starts them knowing how to be politically and civically engaged,” she said, noting that many political issues are easy enough for even children to understand. “Why are there potholes? Why is there illegal dumping? Why are the schools not getting funding? This affects the younger kids too.”

Also present at the event was 17-year-old Maxine Van Osten, a senior at John W. Hallahan Catholic Girls’ High School. Her 18th birthday is a week until the day after the election, and as a result, she won’t be able to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. But that hasn’t stopped her from registering other people.

“At my school I registered four people to vote this week,” she said. “If I can’t do it, I’m going to make other people do it.”

She said she’s always been interested in politics, but the Parkland shooting is what especially made her want to get involved. It’s the same way for many of her peers, she thinks.

“I’ve always been very politically involved, but that’s when I actually started doing things at my school,” she said. “I think it’s really amazing to see that people our age are starting to care about the supreme court nominees and things like that.”

Does Whitaker think there’s hope for the upcoming generation about to enter the voting block?

“I believe [there is],” she said. “A lot of the younger folks I talk to around the age of 14 to 17 that are really into it.”

At the end of the day, Whitaker just hopes the event accomplishes its goal and encourages more people get out and vote.

“We just need a little reminder about the empowerment to vote,” she said. “A lot of people feel like their vote doesn’t matter, which is understandable with how things are going, but it does matter. To go into a polling booth and push the button for your possible future elected official is empowering.”