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High Schoolers want to vote—we have a responsibility to show them how

Each year, young people are criticized for not turning out to elections.  Even with the remarkable turnout of voters aged 18-19 in the 2018 midterm election of 31%, there is still immense room for growth. Some people think that this is because young people are disinterested, but we know that the real issue is burdensome voting processes coupled with a lack of investment in, and authentic engagement with, young voters.  

Playing a critical role in reaching young voters

For more than nine years, the League of Women Voters Education Fund has invested in the engagement and registration of young voters by offering Youth Voter Registration training and grants to state and local Leagues.  League volunteers use these funds to build on their relationships with local schools to reach students and register them to vote. For many first-time voters, volunteers with the League will be the first people to start a conversation about voting and how to be involved with our democratic process. 

Getting the word out to students

Earlier this month, I, along with two of my colleagues, had the distinct pleasure of joining LWV of Fairfax County at the Hayfield Secondary School. President Beth Tudan took us first to a classroom where she went through a presentation about the power of voting. She and two other volunteers then passed out voter registration forms and walked students through the process. The students were engaged, energized, and attentive.

Registering voters with LWV of Fairfax

We then went into the lunch room where a remarkable volunteer, Camille, walked fearlessly up to high school seniors and quizzed them on Virginia-specific voting information. The students were competitive and eager to demonstrate what they learned about where and how to vote in Virginia. At the same time, League volunteers were offering voter registration for eligible students while they ate their lunch and distributed information about our online voter-information guide, VOTE411.org.  

 

The sooner we can start educating young people about our election and voting systems, the more empowered they will be to make their voices heard. 

I’ve been a registered voter since I turned 18, but it wasn’t until I was 23 that I exercised my right to vote. I found the process intimidating. Shortly after turning 18, I went off to college in a different state. I remember my parents calling me to remind me to fill out an absentee ballot, but I was embarrassed that I did not know how, so I opted out. The sooner we can start educating young people about our election and voting systems, the more empowered they will be to make their voices heard. 

I continue to be excited by the work carried out by League volunteers because we know it makes an incredible impact. You, too, can be part of these efforts by finding and joining your local League