Sunrise Movement pushes for voter registration ahead of town elections

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ANOUSHKA MALLIK/SAGAMORE STAFF

The Sunrise Movement Brookline and A Better Brookline worked together to hold a voter registration drive in the hopes of registering youth voters and educating them on the town’s upcoming May 4 elections.

Sunrise Movement Brookline and A Better Brookline (ABB) joined forces to hold a registration drive with the goal of registering youth voters and informing them about the upcoming town election on May 4.

A Better Brookline, an organization dedicated to making Brookline a city, had a table where recently registered voters could sign their petition into opening an investigatory commission into their proposal.

Senior Ronnie England, a volunteer for ABB, said Sunrise Brookline invited them to set up a table at the event.

“We’ve been partners with Sunrise Brookline for a while, and they reached out and asked if we wanted to hop on this,” England said. “It’s great that they are getting people to register, and they know that we need registered voters for this, so it just worked out.”

According to senior Lili Rodgers, Sunrise Brookline has been focusing on a big spring campaign push ahead of the town election on May 4. Rodgers said the outcome of town elections can have large impacts across the board, including implications for action against climate change.

“We’re a climate group, technically, but this has implications for all important areas, and any change we want to make on a local level comes from electing officials that will push for that progressive change, and part of that is registering voters, to make sure our voices are heard in the town election,” Rodgers said.

Sunrise Brookline members and seniors Elizabeth Feldstein-Nixon and Lili Rodgers, pictured above, helped to organize the voter registration drive. (ANOUSHKA MALLIK/SAGAMORE STAFF)

Freshman Sarah Mautner-Mazlen said the turnout for local elections has been low in the past, and that registering voters and increasing turnout can have real impacts on the outcome of elections.

“Turn out for town elections fluctuates, because they’re never at the same time as the November elections and primaries, between 17 and 26 percent. It was lower last year because of the pandemic, but it’s not a lot of people,” Mautner-Mazlen said. “Brookline has about 40,000 registered voters and not a lot of them vote in the town election. Last year the gap between the winner and the loser was 332 votes, which is half the senior class, so there’s a lot of potential to make an impact.”

Policy director at Sunrise Brookline and junior Sasha Kalvert said making voting accessible to the youth allows for more representation in town government.

“A huge issue in Brookline is that town politics are super inaccessible so if you don’t have the time to spend 30 hours a week researching candidates or trying to understand the really hard to read website and a million other things, it’s really hard to get a sense of what’s going on,” Kalvert said. “That means the majority of voters are old white people who don’t necessarily represent the town’s interests. So the importance of youth voter registration is to get a more accurate sense of where the town is at and what the town actually needs.”

Sophomores Michelle Li and Lila Yoon gave out free food to anyone who signed the Sunrise Brookline ‘Pledge to Vote.’ (ANOUSHKA MALLIK/SAGAMORE STAFF)

Senior Tamar Paserman found her registration process to be easy and straightforward. Paserman said the decision to come to the drive came down to finding a simple and quick way to register.

“I got my citizenship earlier this year, so I was excited to be able to register to vote,” Paserman said. “I saw on Instagram some posts that said ‘register to vote’ and ‘come to the Teen Center,’ so I just thought that seemed perfect and an easy way to register.”

Mautner-Mazlen and Rodgers shared the importance of voting in both having your voice heard, and having an impact on climate change policies in Brookline.

“Definitely participate,” Rodgers said. “I think it’s really important to have your voice heard, and I think it would be great to have Brookline leading in the state and the nation as a town that’s really tackling climate change as it should be, and this is our opportunity to do that.”

According to Mautner-Mazlen, the importance of building a habit out of voting at a young age is critical, despite the challenges.

“It’s a muscle. The way our voting system is set up, people are starting to be able to vote when they’re 18; that’s when people are usually moving away from home, they’re going to college, and a lot of things are changing,” Mautner-Mazlen said. “If you don’t start to vote when you’re younger, you usually won’t vote as much later, so it’s a good muscle to have.

Brookline resident Pat Murray stopped by to pledge to vote on May 4. She said voting is a right that people must take advantage of.

“If you don’t vote, then you lose some of your right to either contribute positively or negatively. Especially negatively. Don’t wait, let other people do the work, and then complain,” Murray said.

Murray said it’s important to increase voter turnout and political engagement because it both checks and holds the people in government accountable, which she believes is essential to a democratic government.

“I think if you don’t have the majority of people they’re probably not going to be tuned into key issues in the town or city,” Murray said. “They may not care very much and if they don’t care, the whole thing becomes apathetic and meaningless, and it allows a few people to take control and keep control without being challenged, and this is never a good for a living, vibrant dynamic community.”