Too young to vote, but not too young to care.
Some high school seniors are already 18 or will turn 18 by November 6. The midterm elections will be their first opportunity to vote.
Most high school students, however, won’t yet be 18 by November. That doesn’t mean they don’t care, and that doesn’t mean they can’t have a real impact.
Here are five things many high schoolers can do even if they aren’t 18 that can really make a difference.
(1) Make sure your friends and family members have a plan to vote.
Research shows that having a plan to vote significantly increases participation. The best plans include the location of the polling place, time of day the voter will go, and how and with whom the voter will get there. It’s great to fill out a sample ballot in advance and to check ID requirements to show up prepared.
You don’t have to be 18 to make sure everyone in your family and community has a plan in place. In fact, the voice of a young person urging adults to make a plan can be a particularly effective form of encouragement. Who would want to let you down?
(2) Text-banking, phone-banking, and social media
Many political campaigns have text-banking and phone-banking gatherings where supporters get together to reach out to potential voters. You can also do this type of outreach through nonpartisan groups. Or you can also organize your own program to contact recent graduates from your school by text or social medial to make sure they will all be voting.
You don’t have to be 18 to get trained and get started. If you and four friends get together and each text 25 people per day between now and November 6, you can reach 125 people per day, and more than 1,000 people overall. Imagine if groups at every high school in your school district got together to help with this work.
(3) Walk with a campaign
Most campaigns run canvasses where supporters get together and walk neighborhoods to identify likely voters and likely supporters. You can bring an adult and go along. The voice of a young person can be especially persuasive, and you’ll learn a lot about what is on your neighbors’ minds and how to communicate your enthusiasm.
(4) Help with a ballot party
One of the best ways to help get out the vote is to participate in social activities that make voting fun. Ballot parties, where people talk as a group about the candidates and measures and combine food and fun can be better than going it alone. If you and your friends help throw the party, it’s a lot more likely to happen and a lot more likely that turnout will be high.
(5) Preregister to vote.
In many states, including California, Colorado, Oregon, and Hawaii, young people can preregister to vote when they turn 16. In other states, including Nevada, young people can preregister as soon as they turn 17. Then they will be automatically registered when they turn 18. Getting preregistered is an important first step in participating in our country’s democracy. If your state doesn’t have preregistration yet, you can look up your Governor and your state representatives and let them know you’ll be voting soon enough, and you want them to change the law. You can sign on to our petition to promote preregistration throughout the country.
Even if you can’t vote yet, your voice and your values matter. If you do any of the things described above, you’ll be way ahead of most older people. And if anyone tries to tell you that you are too young to make a difference, you can thank them for their interest and show them you know better.