BY CLAIRE SMITH When she’s not at play rehearsal, voice lessons, or dance class, 12-year-old Madison Kimrey takes North Carolina politics by storm. Last month, Kimrey spoke at an Alamance County Moral Monday demonstration, and the internet has been buzzing with praise of the preteen advocate ever since.
The home schooled suffragette says she’s always been interested in politics, but didn’t get involved until this summer when she attended her first Moral Monday demonstration in Raleigh. Kimrey says she began educating herself on the issues surrounding politics in North Carolina, and she took special interest in the new Voter ID law.
“When Pat McCrory signed the voter ID law, everyone got focused on all the really big issues that were mixed in, and not many people were talking about pre-registration,” says Kimrey. The new law will make many changes to the way North Carolinians vote in upcoming elections by shortening early voting from 17 days to 10 days, eliminating pre-registration for 16- and 17-year-olds, requiring government issued photo IDs at the polls, and ending same-day registration.
At age 12, Kimrey already takes High School freshman level classes, so most of her friends are 16 or 17, she says. As of August, with the passing of the voter ID law, Kimrey’s friends won’t be able to pre-register to vote. “I don’t want [pre-registration] to get lost in the mix of some of the bigger issues,” she says.
To educate the public on the implications of the loss of pre-registration, Kimrey founded NC Youth Rock. Kimrey says she started the organization with the intention of communicating with legislators and protecting pre-registration. “My new goal is to get federal legislation passed for it to be uniform across the US. I’m thinking this might be a more realistic goal from when I first started,” she says.
Kimrey also started an online petition to meet with Gov. McCrory and discuss the voter ID law. After only a few months, the petition has reaped over 13,000 signatures nationwide. (You can add your name to the petition here.) The final lines of her petition state: “I can’t vote and I don’t have a million dollars. I’m not a well-funded group. I’m just a kid who was born in and lives in your state. However, I do have a voice and I hope you will take time to meet with me.”
But the response to Kimrey’s efforts hasn’t been entirely positive. When Kimrey asked Gov. Pat McCrory to meet with her to discuss the new voter ID bill, he ignored her request and said in an interview on WWNC radio, “This is all very liberal groups using children as, I think, props to push a very far-left agenda. And I don’t agree with conservatives doing that. Nor do I agree with liberals doing that.”
When Kimrey took the stage in Alamance County on October 28th, she responded to the governor’s comments: “I am not a prop! I am part of the new generation of suffragettes and I will not stand silent while laws are passed to reduce the amount of voter turnout by young people in my home state.” The video of Kimrey’s speech on YouTube has received over half a million views since October 29th.
Kimrey shared the stage at the Alamance Moral Monday with retired state senator Ellie Kinnaird, who also discussed the implications of the voter ID law. Kimrey’s celebrity even extends further than North Carolina; her passion has caught the attention of major news outlets. The Huffington Post ran a story with the headline: “This 12-year-old will restore your faith in the future of politics.”
As for the future, Kimrey says she doesn’t know what’s next for her. “When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I like to say it hasn’t been invented yet.” She is considering a career as a newscaster, reporter, or even a makeup artist. But she says she will always be an advocate for voting rights. “I know a lot of people who complain about what’s going on in our government who didn’t vote,” she says. “And if you don’t vote then you can’t really complain.”
Kimrey’s advice for teens and adults in North Carolina is simple: “Pay attention and if you see something that you don’t like happening in your state and your government, then you can do something about it.”