Westport teen’s website helps voters across America
WESTPORT — The lead-up to Election Day can be fraught with decisions to make and an overflow of information, but one Westport teen aims to make the process easier for all.
Ella Berg, a 17-year-old Staples High School student, said a few months ago she found difficulty while attempting to pre-register to vote.
“I figured if this was happening to me and I’m just trying to figure out how to pre-register there’s a lot of people this is happening to,” Berg recalled.
Her experience led her to start a new website — voteacrossamerica.org — which streamlines the process not only for Connecticut voters, but voters in every state and U.S. territory. Included is a general information page for each state, polling place locators, voter ID requirements and a link to register to vote.
“I spent a long time on this,” Berg said.
Over the course of nearly a year, she researched information for each state and territory to create the site. Being enrolled in politics courses in school also taught the Staples senior the intricacies and rich history of politics.
“It showed me how unique America is in terms of the strength of our democratic norms,” she said of an AP U.S. History class.
Despite living in a town that is very politically active, Berg noticed neither her nor her peers knew their voting rights.
“It got me thinking a lot about how somebody needs to address reforms,” she said.
Without active voters and equal access to voting information, Berg said democracy could fall a part, adding the site represented how everyone can play a part in making a change.
“I think people don’t think they can make a difference because they’re one individual, but a democracy isn’t a democracy unless everybody is involved and everybody is engaging in civic participation,” she said.
The site isn’t Berg’s first attempt at making voter information easily accessible. Last year, Berg created a voter’s guide for Westporters that included links to registration and voting information for all the races.
Berg noted quick and easily accessible information is important for the youth of today. A generation who has grown up with the internet is not used to the bureaucracy and disorganization that sometimes comes with Election Day, she said.
“That’s why I think consolidate information is so important right now” she added.
For Berg, high voter turnout and access to correct information is key to the future of any democracy.
“You can call any country a democracy if you want to as long as there are elections, but you can’t call it a fair democracy or the people’s democracy unless the will of the people are being accurately expressed,” she said. “You can’t do that unless every person has one vote and are voting if they’d like to.”
Amid her election project, Berg also has future plans to study public policy in college to help reform education, health care and the electoral process.
“I feel if I can do this much in high school, I can do so much more with a college education in public policy,” Berg said. “I want to use that to give back to democracy and American society.”