'It's Our Only Shot': 12 Global Citizens Tell Us Why Voting Matters to Them

Authors: Leah Rodriguez and Madeleine Keck

Mary Kang for Global Citizen

In 2020, youth voters in the US went to the polls in the highest numbers since 1971, when the 26th Amendment lowered the voting age to 18. Now, in a matter of weeks, the first class of Gen Z leaders running for office will be on the 2022 midterm election ballots, and we’ll see if youth voter turnout surpasses 2018’s record-breaking highs for midterms.

Voter turnout is historically lower during midterm elections compared to presidential elections, but Global Citizens are already gearing up to head to the polls as they check their voter registration status ahead of voter registration deadlines approaching in many states next week. 

Attendees of Global Citizen Festival: NYC, which marked the 10th anniversary of the festival in Central Park on Sept. 24, shared with us why voting is important to them ahead of the midterm elections on Nov. 8. 

Taking actions that called on leaders to empower girls, close the climate finance gap, and alleviate the global food crisis in order to attend, guests saw their favorite artists amplify and celebrate the global campaign to help end extreme poverty.

Metallica, Charlie Puth, Jonas Brothers, MÅNESKIN, Mariah Carey, Mickey Guyton, Rosalía, Angélique Kidjo, and Billy Porter performed in Central Park, while Usher, SZA, Stormzy, Gyakie, Sarkodie, Stonebwoy, TEMS, and Uncle Waffles took over Black Star Square in Accra, Ghana.

The campaign culminated in more than $2.4 billion being announced. More than US$800 million was announced to end extreme poverty NOW and the European Commission and Canada pledged US$1.6 billion as part of the seventh replenishment of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria on Sept. 21, in addition to the announcement of five companies signing on to the UN-led Race to Zero initiative to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

More than US$440 million was earmarked exclusively to initiatives to end extreme poverty on the African continent, with the remainder intended to reach people around the world, including across Africa.

Voters will soon have the chance to cast their votes for the House of Representatives, senators, governors, and local officials who have the power to make decisions about issues that promote sustainable development and can help end poverty.

The Global Citizens we spoke to want to see more support for student loan forgiveness, climate action, women’s issues, LGBTQ+ rights, and vaccine equity. 

Read more about what they had to say about the importance of voting below, and be sure to check your voter registration status through our partner HeadCount and find state-by-state voter registration deadlines.

Kenja (left), 29, and Lizeth (right), 28, attend Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Kenja (left), 29, and Lizeth (right), 28, attend Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Kenja, 29, Teaneck, New Jersey

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

I consider things like loan forgiveness because I’m in school. I want our money to go toward schools so that people that are underprivileged can have more funding and actually be able to afford to go to college and finish, and the after effect [of] having more jobs in the markets so that we can have jobs that pay us what we need to be paid so we can pay back our loans.

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

It’s important to vote whether it’s for someone as big as the president or someone [who is] just a senator or something. It’s important to vote to get your voice heard so that change can be made, no matter how small. 

Lizeth, 28, Long Branch, New Jersey

Why is voting important to you? 

Voting is important for me because I come from a family that came from other countries. My mom is Mexican and my dad is Puerto Rican. I vote for the immigrants in the country. I vote for students like me that have loans for loan forgiveness and all my friends that are LGBTQ — I fight for them, I vote for them.

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

Right now, for me, the immigration policy, LGBTQ rights, women’s rights, [and] student stuff. 

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen? 

You have to put your part in through voting because if we don’t, how are they going to know what’s the issue and what's going on in these little communities? That’s our little way of speaking up and letting everyone know what’s good in those little neighborhoods that no one looks into. 

Ben (left), 24, and Ethan (right), 23, attend Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Ben (left), 24, and Ethan (right), 23, attend Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Ben, 24, Los Angeles, California

Why is voting important to you?

Voting is important to me because it’s a way of expressing your own beliefs in a hierarchical sense. You vote for the people that represent your beliefs the most.

What issues are important to you on the ballot?

Abortion rights, voting rights, [and] climate change. 

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

In the US, we’re the global stage.

Ethan, 23, New York City

Why is voting important to you? 

Voting is important because we need a way to show our voice and our opinions. And our ancestors also fought for this right and we have to live up to that belief that we fought for. 

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

Climate, abortion rights, immigration laws, [and] refugee rights. Infrastructure is big, too, and economic equality.

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen? 

There are other places in the world that don’t have the same rights that we do and they can’t vote, and as a developed country we need to lead by example by living as an example for them and exercising our rights. 

Shelby, 22, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Shelby, 22, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Shelby, 22, Queens, New York

Why is voting important to you? 

I want to make sure the people I’m voting for not only make my life better but make others’ lives better. 

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

One of the biggest issues is justice, especially within law [and] making sure there’s fair justice for all, even in policing.

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen? 

We are changemakers. It’s important as a Global Citizen to want to make a difference and change the world for good and making sure everyone has equal access to vaccines. [And] again, back to justice, making sure everyone has fairness in the law and fairness across all parts of life.

Angie, 31, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Angie, 31, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Angie, 31, New York City

Why is voting important to you? 

I think when you’re given the chance to make a choice, you should take it. You can’t complain [about] the outcome when you don’t do your part. A lot of people complain that America sucks, and it can, but compared to lots of places at least we’re given a choice. No matter what you believe — people think it’s rigged — I think … if you want to complain about something, at least do something about it … I think if you want to make a difference for yourself and the future, even if you’re not going to be here for the next generation, it’s important to do your part. 

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

I think about my family. I think of women’s rights, gay rights, [and] rights for people of color.

Dina, 39, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Dina, 39, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Dina, 39, Manhattan, New York

Why is voting important to you? 

It hasn’t always been possible for my ancestors and I'm happy that I'm able to give that to my children, too — that they have power in their hands.

What issues are important to you on the ballot? 

Education, safety … Really, these days that’s what it is.

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

It shows that each person really matters and shows that we also care about our fellow man. 

Nicole, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Nicole, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Nicole, 24, New York

What issues are important to you on the ballot?

I am registered to vote. Women’s rights are what I'm passionate about, and the issue area I took action on for Global Citizen. Within my friendship group, women's rights are the main issue we’re passionate about.

Jennifer, 51, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Jennifer, 51, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Jennifer, 51, Hamilton Heights, New York

What issues are important to you on the ballot?

If I had to vote for a single issue, it would be women’s autonomy. 

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

If you don’t exercise your voice, it’s not that you can’t complain, but you miss the opportunity to get your voice out there. If you aren’t active, you could have anyone ruling your country.

Christian, 20, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Christian, 20, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Christian, 20, New Jersey 

What issues are important to you on the ballot?

The issue I'm passionate about when it comes to voting would be climate change. Everybody should be voting and using their voice.

Hamida, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Hamida, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Hamida, 24, Germany

Why is voting important to you?

I have traveled in East Africa, and there are a lot of orphans. I mean orphans all over the world. This is something that is on a higher level for me that I want to see improved. I want to see food, education, and emotional support for these kids that have no one in this world. 

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

Raising your voice on these issues when all Global Citizens go to the polls and vote for their national leaders is important. 

Tatym, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.Tatym, 24, attends Global Citizen Festival: NYC in Central Park on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022.
Image: Mary Kang for Global Citizen

Tatym, 24, New Jersey

What issues are important to you on the ballot?

Gun control is the issue I’m most drawn to. 

Why is voting an important part of being a Global Citizen?

I’m registered to vote, and I think voting is so important because it’s our only say, it’s our only shot. I feel like it sucks, but it feels like we’re powerless a lot of the time. If I want to have any influence, voting is the best way. I mean, I can tweet my opinions, I can tell other people, but voting is really the only way I feel I have any power. 


These interviews have been lightly edited and condensed for clarity. 

Global Citizen and HeadCount have teamed up to engage young Americans to check their voting status, register, and vote. Through the work of this groundbreaking nonpartisan collaboration, we’re activating young people to get involved and spark change in their communities by expressing opinions at the ballot box. Learn how to register to vote, volunteer, and take action right now!