Two recent reports are keeping me up at night.
CIRCLE, a research center at Tufts University, reported that 40% of young people received no outreach about the 2018 midterms. That means nothing from campaigns, nothing from candidates, nothing from social media, and presumably nothing from their schools.
Pew published a study in 2017 about outreach efforts to promote voter registration. More than 60% of people (both those who were registered and those who were not) reported that no one had ever asked them to register. Only six to seven percent of people said they had been asked to register at school or as part of a class.
Why haven't we created an infrastructure for our democracy in which everyone is asked to participate?
A basic marketing principle states that it takes at least seven touches before someone will internalize or act upon a call to action.
How many times have you been asked to drink a Coke? Coca-Cola spent nearly $4 billion on domestic advertising in 2016 alone.
Most schools we have asked have no budget whatsoever for voter registration.
It is hard to get to seven touches with a budget of zero.
And it’s not just the budgets of many schools that are zero.
Also at zero is voter registration training for teachers and class time devoted to teaching kids that they can register or preregister to vote before they turn 18. Zero is also the number of policies adopted and implemented to promote voter registration in schools by many school districts.
It seems we ask kids about everything else. We ask about homework. We ask about hygiene. We ask about their friends and driving and sports and drama and clothing and how Snapchat works. In school they are asked about literary themes and grammar and the Civil War and the respiratory system and the periodic table and solving for X.
How about just one more question: Would you like to register to vote?
It is entirely possible that this one little question may lead to a variety of questions in response. How do I register? How do I vote? Why register? Why vote?
We’ve got other blog posts and resources to help in responding to these questions. The most convincing answers are going to come from young people talking to one another and answering these questions for themselves. But we have to create the conditions for these conversations to happen.
More than 11,000 people are turning 18 every day in the United States, and they deserve better.
They deserve to be asked.