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Young Voters Making Their Mark

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Primary season is in full swing, and a bright spot is popping up in state after state: young people are paying attention, and they’re excited to vote this year! Early data from CIRCLE (the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) show that young people are voting in primaries at levels we have not seen for some time.

Young people are closely following candidate debates, with 58 percent of voters under the age of 30 reporting having watched one (as of Dec. 15). And, in a recent Rock the Vote/USA Today poll, an incredible 75 percent of millennials reported that they believe voting is a way to have an impact on the issues they care about. If ever there was a time to help young people get registered and ready to vote, this year is it.

This spring, League volunteer teams are working in hundreds of communities to do just that. They’re registering voters on campuses, hosting educational events to help voters understand the primary process, publishing unbiased voters’ guides to help explain who is on the ballot and helping get the word out about important election changes that will affect the voting process in many states.

We’re especially excited about our 2016 Youth Voter Registration Program, underway now in 25 communities across 15 states. Through this program League volunteers are visiting high school and community college campuses to offer voter registration. With months left to go in the school year, our volunteers have already reported registering well more than 4,000 young people to vote.

In Dearborn, Michigan, League volunteers are taking their work beyond the regular school day by including alternative schools and even a drop-in Cyber School into their work, all with the goal of reaching just as many young eligible voters as possible. So far, they have visited five schools and helped 175 students register to vote.

In the Piedmont Triad area of North Carolina, where recent voting law battles have created a rapidly changing, and often confusing, landscape for voters, League volunteers have helped young people combat the confusion by driving a phenomenal voter registration campaign. While registering new voters, the League is also educating the new voters about what to expect on Election Day. Armed with a team of 63 volunteers from the League and partner organizations, the Piedmont Triad League organized 22 voter registration drives in schools across the area, ultimately helping 1,700 high school students and 1,100 local college students register to vote. The League is in talks with other local schools to keep the work up following the state’s primary. All we can say is, ‘wow!’

In Beloit and Janesville, Wisconsin, another state inundated with major voting law confusion, League volunteers have spent more than 40 hours hosting voter registration drives at area high schools, technical schools and colleges. Across the state, League teams are working to equip voters of all backgrounds with the information they need about the state’s newly implemented photo voter ID requirement.

Here at LWVUS, our team is celebrating these successes and working to get the word out: has the information young voters—and voters of all ages!—need before they head to the polls.

We are also taking our message on the road, speaking with hundreds of teachers over the next few weeks through partnerships like the Teaching for Democracy alliance and Southern Poverty Law Center’s Teaching Tolerance program. At every turn, we’ll share the best of what the League has to offer in terms of tactics teachers can use to start their own voter registration programs at their schools, opportunities to partner with local League of Women Voters volunteers and share our gratitude for all they do to prepare young people for the world.

Thank you to all of the incredible partners, volunteers educators and allies who make this work possible. And congratulations to all the young people who are already making their voices heard this election year!

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