Recently, CollegeXpress had the opportunity to hop on a Zoom call with YelloPain, a rapper and activist who’s set his sights on getting young Americans to get informed, get registered, and get to the polls to vote. The transcript of our conversation is below, but we also wanted to provide the CollegeXpress community some helpful resources that offer up extensive voter information.
Resources for voters
The US Election Assistance Commission put together this list of steps for voters to take to get informed and prepared before Election Day on November 3:
Register to vote
First things first: if you haven’t yet, register to vote! Most states have an October deadline for voter registration.
Confirm your voter registration status
Check your status with your state or local elections office a few weeks before Election Day. If you’re already registered, make sure to update your registration if your address, name, or political affiliation has changed.
Know your polling place location and hours
Confirm your polling place location for the big day, and make sure you know what time your polling place opens and closes.
Know your home state’s voter identification requirements
Some states require voters to show ID to vote. Find out if yours is one of them.
Understand provisional voting
Federal law allows you to cast a provisional ballot in a federal election if your name doesn’t appear on the voter registration record, if you don’t have ID, or if your eligibility to vote is in question.
Check the accessibility of your polling place
If you have a disability that may affect your voting experience, your polling location may offer special assistance to provide voting accessibility. Contact your local elections office to get information about voting equipment and access to the polling place, including parking.
Note: if English isn’t your first language and you want to make sure all the information you need on Election Day is clear and easy to understand, contact your local elections office to inquire about voter materials in your native language.
Consider voting early
You can find out if your state has early voting in person or by mail and if so, when, where, and how you can vote before Election Day. If you choose to vote early by mail, know the deadlines for requesting and returning your ballot. Some states provide drop-off stations for mail ballots, and some allow voters to return mail ballots to polling places on Election Day.
Understand absentee voting requirements
Most states allow voters to use an absentee (mail-in) ballot. Absentee ballots must be returned or postmarked beforethe polls close on Election Day.
Learn about military and overseas voting
Special voting procedures may apply if you’re in the US military or living overseas. You may qualify for an absentee ballot by submitting a Federal Post Card Application (FPCA). If you’re active-duty military or residing out of the country, check out the Federal Voting Assistance Program.
Abby: Hey everybody, welcome to the CollegeXpress YouTube channel! My name is Abby, and I’m really excited to be here with YelloPain today. We’re talking about his single, “My Vote Don’t Count,” and he’s also now working with Vote.org, which is super exciting. He’s super passionate about getting people educated about what it means to be an informed voter and how important it is to vote. So, YelloPain, thanks for being here with me today!
YelloPain: What’s going on? It’s my pleasure, I’m honored to be here.
Abby: I’m excited to talk to you! So, my first question is just: tell me a little bit more about yourself, maybe something you wouldn’t find on Google? Tell me how you got started and what makes you excited about music and voting and all that good stuff.
YelloPain: Yeah, so I’m from Dayton, Ohio, born and raised. I started rapping when I was about seven years old...I got inspired by my cousin who was like, a gangster rapper...I wanted to be like him because he was getting the girls and stuff *laughs* but my parents found one of my raps when I was younger and heard some of the stuff I was talking about...they didn’t like that! So that led to me trying to be more inspirational and conscious.
Abby: That’s awesome. I love the shirt too, it's a really great shirt! And that’s exactly what we’re talking about today: how important it is that everybody get out and vote, that everybody’s vote does count, and that it’s super important that we all get informed. So, tell me a little bit about the inspiration behind “My Vote Don’t Count.” The sentiment that I got was that you were talking through your journey as you got to know a little bit more about politics, elections, the processes around that...and how you started out thinking that your vote didn’t count, and how now you understand how important it is that you’re a part of this. Can you tell me more about that?
YelloPain: Yeah, most definitely. So, my cousin, Desireee Tims, she’s running for Congress in the 10th district of Ohio, which is like the Dayton, Ohio, area (where I was born and raised). She came to me and said “Cuz, I think you should make a song about politics because people don’t know a lot about it,” and I was like “Cuz, I’m cool on that...like, I love you, but I’m not into politics.” I have no political background, I didn’t know anything about politics! So, I was like, no, I’m cool. But she said “You know you have a platform, so you should use it for that. Why don’t you believe in politics?” And I said, you know, I voted for Obama back in, was it 2012, I believe? And I felt like nothing changed. I had no idea. And she explained to me how it all works. She explained to me [that there’s] more than just the presidential election, there’s the state, local...and how everything works. How much money we [make] every two weeks is directly tied to certain laws [...] that affect our areas...and when she explained it to me, I felt kind of upset with myself—like, “Why don’t I know this stuff? I’m an adult” *laughs* [...] “Why doesn’t everybody know this? Why isn’t it that easily accessible?” So I wanted to walk people through that same journey, that wake-up moment that I had.
Abby: That’s great, and you’re definitely not alone feeling like you didn’t know anything about this process. I know that I felt the same way not long ago, and that a lot of young Americans probably feel that exact same way right now, to this day.
So you learned most of what you know now from your cousin; are there any resources of any type of websites or information hubs that you could recommend to young Americans that are looking for this information?
YelloPain: Yeah, most definitely. A lot of stuff is really public information—I learned a lot from my cousin but I [also] went straight to Google. Also, you can go to Vote.org, you can get registered [to vote], and find all the general information. More so than an easy pathway to finding information, understanding the importance and how necessary it is to really be looking for it, actively.
Abby: Definitely. And [I saw] on your Facebook page that there’s a direct link that folks can register to vote right from your [...] page, so that’s super cool. It’s definitely great to explore the information that’s on there. And when we have artists like you and folks with a platform that are happy to share that, that’s great, especially for younger Americans that maybe don’t know where to start...so thank you for doing that, it’s really important, and I think that it’s great for any musician, any actor, anybody who wants to share that information with their fans and anybody who comes across their platform…that’s really helpful.
Do you think that, if any, does education play a role in getting young Americans to know more about the processes? Do you feel like maybe you missed out on that in school?
YelloPain: To be honest, with how important voting is—with me understanding that now—I really feel like the educational system has failed us...it needs some restructuring. I don’t think we should learn about the judicial, legislative, and executive branch [of government] so early and then never really cover it again...I think this is something that should be constantly [covered]...I think schools definitely need to incorporate some serious, mandatory government classes so that we can understand. Because even now, I just recently learned about politics about a year ago, and I was able to break down the general structure of the government, and I’m still learning...but it’s a lot to take it. With that being said, there are some things that people can be “force fed” [...] so that we can understand and be more active.
Abby: Yeah, I agree. I think that it’s important, especially in late high school, juniors and seniors, that’s our biggest audience here on CollegeXpress...so we like to have information that maybe they don’t learn in school, but maybe should be talked about more in school. I think that Gen Z is really good at advocating for themselves about what they want to learn, and they also have access to these social media platforms that we didn’t have growing up...and they have all this information right at the tips of their fingers and they’re just waiting for it. I [...] definitely agree with you, there definitely needs to be more mandatory classes and instruction on all of the things that are happening in our government, because a lot of us just walk through life not knowing anything about it, or what’s going on, or how it affects us.
Do you have any specific advice for BIPOC young Americans that feel their local representatives, state representatives, and federal, congress, house representatives have failed them and made them feel as if their vote doesn’t count and as if their lives don’t matter, do you have anything to say to them, any kind of encouragement, inspiration, things of that sort for them?
YelloPain: Yeah, most definitely. One thing I always tell people is: don’t make this about you, specifically. If you feel like nobody did anything for me and it doesn't work for me, you have to think bigger. You have to think about your family, your children, your children’s children, [etc.], we have to understand that okay, you decide you don’t want to vote, you don’t want to participate in this election, understand that there are people that are going to vote; somebody’s gonna vote, and they’re not gonna have you in mind. So it’s better to be a part of that and vote in your favor than have somebody else make the decisions about your life for you.
Abby: Right, I think it’s important to remember that it’s totally fine to vote in your own self-interest, but also knowing that there are a lot of people that are going to be affected by the decisions that are made by our vote, and if we don't do that, if we don’t advocate for ourselves, somebody else might not. So you're exactly right, I think it’s really important to do what you need to do and think about how policies are going to affect you and your life—and the ones that you love—and that’s why it’s so important to get out there and vote. I’m totally with you on that.
Was there anything else that you wanted to share today about your experience and any feedback that you’ve gotten from people about their experience with voting and elections and everything like that?
YelloPain: Yeah, for sure. It’s crazy because, like, I made the song “My Vote Don’t Count” and the remix, “My Vote Will Count” because I felt like I didn’t have enough information, and I wanted to teach other people my age like, hey, this is important. And I pretty much knew I would get some response back from young people, and [I did], but also people that were like 70, 80 years old and it was like “I can’t believe […] I didn’t know any of this!” It just really goes to show how big of a gap it is between civics and everyday life. I’m excited to be a part of this journey, but I just really want to show people the importance of it and hopefully we can get active and make some real change.
Abby: Definitely. I think it really takes a lot of us getting together in [unison] and really committed to making these changes that need to happen in this country. And the only way we can do that is by being informed and getting out there and voting.
I also think it’s important to note today that it’s October, which means you have to register to vote...really soon! Deadlines vary by state, I know here in Massachusetts it’s a little bit later in October, but I know some states it’s early October. So, everybody please go register, you can go right to YelloPainPain’s Facebook page and register right through his page, or do a quick Google search for “register [to vote] in my state.” Other than that, it’s great that YelloPain is working with Vote.org with all of these great resources, and he’s obviously committed to getting people excited and educated [about voting], and here at CollegeXpress we’re really passionate about that as well. So please do go find that information, listen to YelloPainPain’s single “My Vote Don’t Count” and now “My Vote Will Count,” viral on YouTube with over 1.8 million views (and then all of his other music is awesome).
We’re so excited that you were here to talk to us today! Any final notes for us?
YelloPain: Yeah, listen: we have to, I know that people are saying “Yeah, I’m gonna go vote,” but we have to registerto vote. The deadline in Ohio is today. It’s October 5th [...] I just drove [to Georgia] because I feel like I made this song, I know people listened to it and loved it, but I just really need to go to where the people don’t care about voting, and I need to make sure that we’re all registered to vote. [...] Wherever you are, if you don’t know who to vote for right now, it’s okay, you’ve got like 30 days almost—just register ASAP.
Abby: Awesome, thank you! Thank you so much for being here.
YelloPain: It was a pleasure to be here.
Make your voice heard!
Make no mistake: your vote does count. Your voice will be heard. But the only way to ensure that is to register, get informed, and show up to the polls on Election Day (or mail in your ballot in advance!). We’ll see you there!
Wondering how this year’s election will affect you as a student? Check out our blog on The 2020 Election: What’s on the Line for You?