A few weeks ago, When We All Vote reached out asking if we’d sign a letter in support of the For The People Act—a bill in the US congress to expand voting rights and control campaign financing by big money. Youth To The People has stayed non-partisan in the past, but for this, we decided we would vocalize our support. In doing so, we join other companies committed to amplifying messages of social justice, including Patagonia and Ben and Jerry’s. What follows is a conversation with Alexandra Cloyes, Youth To The People’s Director of Giving, about the bill and why we support it.
Alyssa Shapiro: First things first—what’s YTTP’s relationship to When We All Vote?
Alexandra Cloyes, Director of Giving: We have a history with When We All Vote. WWAV is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization on a mission to increase voter participation. During this past election cycle, we donated to WWAV and amplified their message. For a democracy to work, every person able to vote needs to. Last month, When We All Vote reached out to ask us if we’d be willing to sign on along with other company signatories to a letter in support of For The People Act. We were surprised at the request.
AC: Surprised because we knew from experience that When We All Vote is nonpartisan. The For The People Act is sponsored by a Democrat and supported by much of the Democratic Party. How nonpartisan could that be?
AS: What is the For The People Act?
AC: The For the People Act is a piece of legislation currently before the Senate. The US Senate vote is scheduled for the beginning of July, which gives all of us time to call, email, or text our senators.
Proponents, us included, are calling it the most significant piece of legislation to strengthen our democracy since the Civil Rights movement. The act would expand automatic voter registration, expand same-day and online voter registration for federal elections, which are especially important for young people and first-time voters, and would allow for pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds so that when they get their driver’s license, they are also registered and ready to vote when they turn 18.
The Act also would require two weeks of early voting for federal elections, including on weekends and after work, increased access to vote-by-mail ballots, would make Election Day a national holiday, and would restore the right to vote for people with felony convictions, which disproportionately impacts minority communities.
It strengthens federal criminal penalties for those who misinform and intimidate people at the polls, overhauls our campaign finance system to give ordinary Americans a greater voice in the political process and afford a more diverse array of people the opportunity to run, and bans partisan gerrymandering and discriminatory voter purges.
AS: It’s significant that this is the first bill YTTP has publicly supported—why has YTTP decided to support this bill?
AC: So we started to research For The People Act and what we found was that when taken out of the political context—when removed from the partisan divide—polls show that the majority of Americans support the ideas included in the For The People Act. That means that when the ideas aren’t branded as “Democrat” or “Republican” and just taken for what they are, people are into them.
Ideas like... let’s make Election Day a holiday so everyone can vote without needing to lose out on wages. Let’s let teens register ahead of their 18th birthday so that when they turn 18 they’re all set to vote. Let’s limit the influence money has on elections and let’s work to prevent foreign governments from being able to interfere in our elections. Let’s protect mail-in ballots so that parents who can’t get childcare to head to the polls can vote anyway. Really common sense protections that struck us as shocking that they didn’t already exist. How is it 2021 and we’re fighting about having Election Day off from work?
To us, the Act seemed like a no-brainer for a country that wants to be the “land of the free.” The purpose of the Act is literally to make voting more open and more inclusive. We believe that ideas about democracy should transcend political parties because democracy belongs to everyone. Democracy doesn’t belong to one political ideology. It belongs to the people—all of them, whether or not you agree with what they think or how they live. Making elections more inclusive and more open should always be the aim of a democractic government and those elected officials that serve in that government.
Youth To The People believes that some ideas are too important not to speak up in support of, even if it means deviating from our commitment to remain nonpartisan. We challenge the very context that tells us it’s partisan to say, “Yes, elections should be inclusive.”
AS: Why have we not used our voice in this way before? What is significant about the decision to do so in this case?
AC: It’s possible that some might be reading this thinking that we have already deviated from being nonpartisan in the past. Youth To The People is a feminist, climate-activist brand that believes Black Lives Matter, trans rights are human rights, and that communities of color are already disproprionately experiencing the effects of climate breakdown.
Again, we believe that respect for human rights should transcend party identity. We are human beings first. To us, those values aren’t political statements. They’re who we are, what we value, and what we’ll organize, activate, and protest for. We want all communities to thrive.
Our support of the For The People Act is an extension of that. For all communities to thrive, voting must be accessible to all communities, and all communities must be able to have their votes count. That’s the deal with democracy.
AS: As the Director of Giving, what role do you envision YTTP taking in future political situations?
AC: We’re a skincare company, one that identifies as an activist brand, yes, but at the end of the day, we sell skincare. We’re not the revolution. But we can help amplify those building a just future and a habitable planet. We can use our economic might, leverage, and influence in support of that just future—for all. Climate change and social injustice are too urgent to be ignored. Our elections are too important to sit out, and too important to sit idly by while communities are excluded from them. Voting must be justly accessible.We’ll stay the course for the people and the planet, a promise we don’t make lightly.