For 17-year-old Germantown resident Zion Sykes, voting is essential and personal. Although Sykes will not be old enough to vote in November, he is a volunteer with Philly Youth Vote, a grassroots campaign to increase voter turnout. It was early Summer when Sykes was looking to gather more volunteer hours and came across the voting group. Initially, he was concerned after learning his classmates and friends were not interested in doing their civic duty. But the main reason the teen joined the voting resources team was his family.
“My cousin didn’t believe in the voting system at all,” Sykes said. “It’s like he wouldn’t make a difference. So I saw one of my friends posted something that I could get involved with, the voter registration team, and one thing led to another, and I just knew I had to join it.”
The death of a family member to Covid 19 also motivates Sykes to spread the word about voting. He said that he feels the current government has handled the pandemic poorly, not providing accurate information about the seriousness of the coronavirus. Sykes said learning that many tragic outcomes of the pandemic might have been avoided affected him deeply.
“I lost my grandmother to it and that messed me up for a while, Sykes said. “I felt that with maybe someone else, other people in charge, it could have gone a lot better. I feel that having the ability to vote for someone who can do that is pretty much as important as eating.”
While convincing non-voters to participate in elections has been challenging for Sykes, he said he has reached some people. One method proven to be successful was having genuine and non-judgemental conversations with a second cousin about why voting did not matter to them. Sykes said he took his time with this family member and eventually changed his mind: “Just take it one step at a time, and you might be able to change that person, and they could affect others.”
To hear more about Zion Sykes, listen to episode 20 of the Info Hub Hour. Sykes joins Philly Youth Votes volunteer Sheyla Street to discuss their experiences. You can learn more about registering and voting at Philly Youth Votes website.