One week too young
I love it when high school students reach out with their thoughts on civic engagement.
Last week was this: “I’m one week too young for Election Day. R.i.p. me.”
Translation: “I want to have a voice. I feel powerless because I can’t vote yet. What can I do?”
Answer: You may be too young to vote, but you have more power than you think.
So, here comes the next question: “If I have so much power, where do I start?”
Of course, there is no one single answer, but see how this feels:
Start where you are.
What I mean is, you don’t have to go anywhere. You don’t have to wait.
Virtually every community in the United States could be doing better with youth civic engagement and voter registration. Most schools have no effective strategy to make sure that every graduate will be a voter. Most students and parents haven’t asked schools to take on this role.
You don’t have to be 18 to help your school make progress and help more students register to vote. You can start asking questions and organizing right where you are.
You can treat your efforts as an experiment or a case study. The goal can be to learn, not to fix every problem on the first try.
Curious? Here are some questions you might ask.
First, find out what your school is already doing to make sure every eligible graduate is registered to vote. Is there a voter registration drive planned for this spring? Are there student groups committed to working on the effort? Does classroom instruction include teaching about options to register or preregister before the age of 18? Is the school sending announcements to seniors and juniors and their parents reminding eligible students to register and telling them how to do it? Does the school have any information about voter registration on its website or in handbook materials provided to parents and students at the beginning of every year? Below is a sample note that you can customize for your school to find out what it is already doing.
Once you know what is already planned, you can ask some more questions. Find out what is working and what you can do to help make improvements.
Keep asking questions and gathering the right people together. Please ask nicely because in all likelihood your teachers and administrators want to help. Some might not know about different resources and possibilities. Some might not even realize that the vast majority of today’s graduating seniors throughout the country can register to vote right now. Look for the people who like to say “yes.” You can be their teacher. You can help them.
If you need resources and tips, you know where to find us.
As for the motivation you will need to keep you going, I think you’ve already identified it: “one week too young.”
Let us know how it goes!
Sample email to get you started (click to download PDF):