Discussing Crucial Election Issues for Upper Manhattan With My Vote Project

Native New Yorker Gita Stulberg spoke about the power of democracy and voting locally ahead of the Midterm Elections on Nov. 8.

Brandee Sanders
November 02, 2022

Veteran community organizer and political strategist Gita Stulberg is a firm believer that actualizing the urgency of voting starts at the grassroots level, and she’s made it her mission to ensure voters are informed and inspired to drive change at the polls.

The creation of the MyVote Project—a nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to increasing voting that she co-founded alongside youth activist Sari Kaufman and educator David McAdams—was born from tragedy. Following the harrowing Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in 2018, they teamed up to mobilize voters and encourage them to take action by letting their voices be heard in local elections.

The advocacy efforts that were birthed in Florida have evolved into a national movement designed to lead crucial community conversations around voter education. The organization has deep roots in New York City and has partnered with INCITE @ Columbia University to advance its mission.

Columbia Neighbors recently spoke with the native New Yorker about the mission behind her nonprofit, the importance of using local elections as avenues to evoke change in your community, and issues on the ballot that Uptown residents should keep top-of-mind ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

What is the mission and vision behind MyVote Project?

We want people to vote informed particularly at the local level. Hosting community conversations is really about understanding what the local issues are and how these bigger national terms like “healthcare” and “education” translate when you’re talking about down your street? That was the onus of this project.

Can you discuss the importance of exercising your right to vote locally?

In terms of a great demonstration for New York City, it was clearly last year. You had nearly two-thirds of the City Council up for reelection. That’s changing government at the local level. Local elections impact your day-to-day life. The bigger and larger themes we see at the national level, do have a way of having their own presence at a local level.

We need to start hearing the same urgency [around voting] at the local level. People should understand the importance of how it impacts their jobs, their street signs, how their community board is run, etc. That’s the kind of understanding that I’d like to see not just in the neighborhood, but around the country.

How is MyVote Project filling the gap at a grassroots level when it comes to increasing votership?

Part of the reason why MyVote Project is nonpartisan is that our founders have different perspectives and views. Nonpartisanship is where people have conversations. That is what we’re exploring right now at the grassroots level. How do we get everybody a seat at the table to have these conversations? We don’t want the news and candidates to dictate what we should be thinking about. We want to hear from voters on what they’d like our candidates to be thinking about and what they’d like to see reported. We also center the work of community activists and advocates at the local level; keeping in mind what they’re observing in the community and how they’re being informed about issues. Making sure all these entities are having conversations is crucial.

Our team is on-the-ground in New York City and across the country going to polling locations, coffee shops, bookstores, and other community spaces to spread awareness and make sure that people know about their candidates.

What are the most crucial issues that someone living in Upper Manhattan should keep top of mind during the Midterm Elections?

New York is one of the most diverse cities in the world and that is why we start a lot of our projects and models there. New Yorkers are the changemakers. We start with issues locally and then the rest of the country joins the conversation. The economy is a huge issue across the board this year. Locally, that’s going to translate to housing issues related to the cost of living. That’s what we’ve been hearing as we’ve been speaking to our communities. Safety unfortunately is a concern in the city and it’s very much attached to the economy.

One of the things that we do with the MyVote Project, particularly in the community conversations, is trying to show that these are not separate issues. They’re very much interdependent. COVID is kind of the match that started the fire of a lot of the issues that we’re seeing right now. Everyone is always talking about the urgency of now. I think the urgency of now is the urgency always. We need to think beyond the midterms. There will be elections every year and we’ve got to learn about the issues and the candidates and get the vote out.

The MyVote Project empowers youth to lead voter education conversations. Can you talk about the power of young activists elevating their voices for change?

It’s important to make students more active in leadership. Some of our students are student members of school boards across the country and New York doesn’t have that and we need that. Students can be involved in politics before they’re able to vote. They’ve got a lot to say and they know a lot about what they want their future to look like.

Learn more about MyVote Project by visiting its website.

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