By Yvonne Wenger and Mary Carole McCauley, the Baltimore Sun

Danyell Smith wasn’t shy about walking up to total strangers at the Security Square Mall over the New Year’s holiday weekend and asking them, “Baby, are you registered to vote?”

Mykidra "Nyki" RObinson shares a high five with supporter Tiffany Simpson.

Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson shares a high five with supporter Tiffany Simpson.

Though Smith is a volunteer with a group called Black Girls Vote, neither she nor her organization aims to sign up only those people with two X chromosomes. They’re eager to enlist anyone and everyone eligible to cast a ballot — males and females, teenagers and senior citizens, African-Americans and Caucasians.

That’s how 18-year-old Omarion Costello of Catonsville found himself holding a clipboard and filling out a registration form while Smith helped him navigate the unexpected pitfalls of the election process…

It’s that kind of respectful but assertive approach that demonstrates why the group can sign up as many as a hundred new voters at individual pop-up events. On a recent morning, it didn’t take Smith long to persuade Costello to go one step further and volunteer to work as an election judge…

Black Girls Vote was founded by Nykidra “Nyki” Robinson after a man was shot and killed over the summer in Hanlon Park, not far from her home. Registering people to vote — especially young African-American women — is part of the 33-year-old’s plans to help change her Northwest Baltimore neighborhood and others. She wants to use the nonprofit to improve public schools, the job market and access to health care.

“It’s a new year. It’s time for new things. We can’t sit back and make excuses,” Robinson said. “Our vote is our voice. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have a GED, or if you have a PhD, we’re all the same.”

The nonpartisan group is planning “pop up events,” like the one Friday, at hair salons, nail parlors, restaurants and big box stores.n_robinson

The group is made up of about 15 core members, all but one of them women. Robinson said. Their hope is that registering a voter will be the start of a relationship. They plan to stay in touch with the people they sign up, and find creative ways to remove barriers that could prevent them from going to the polls for the April primary or November election…

While the State Board of Elections did not have a racial breakdown on registered voters in the city, data show 56 percent are women. Of the women registered, 9 percent are between the ages of 18 and 24…

A first generation college graduate, Robinson earned a degree in business marketing from Frostburg University. She grew up in an apolitical home in Randallstown, the daughter of a mail carrier and laborer.

She said she had long considered how best to make a difference in her community after buying a house in the Hanlon-Longwood neighborhood about eight years ago. She registered the domain name Blackgirlsvote.com in May, but she said it was the 24-year-old man’s killing in August that prompted her to act…

“It’s economics,” she said. “Who am I to judge? Desperate times call for desperate measures.”bgv

The group will focus on the Baltimore area for the 2016 election with hopes of expanding. Robinson said they are seeking community feedback to develop an agenda. Next, they’ll dissect the platforms of various candidates to see how they align…

Read the full article here.

Read more Breaking News here.