You may be aware that young voters typically have low voter turnouts. But according to a recent New York Times article, only half of Americans between the ages of 18 – 29 voted in the 2016 presidential election.
It can be easy to suggest that young people don’t vote due to apathy. But that’s often not the case. According to research, there are various reasons young people don’t vote, but apathy is rarely one of them.
This trend is concerning, particularly when you consider that these young people are the future of our nation. But we have an opportunity to help change this pattern and support our country’s youngest voters to submit those ballots!
There are a few strategies you might consider as you encourage your student, and any other young person you know, to not only register to vote, but get them to the finish line.
1) Explain the process.
Many of us think it’s easy to cast a vote, but it can be much more complex than we realize, especially if you’ve never done it before.
Providing step-by-step instructions on how the process works, why every vote is important, and how voting sets the stage for a lifelong commitment to your community and broader society, can be a good starting point for a conversation with your student.
2) Make it easy to vote.
When there are too many barriers to vote, it’s definitely going to significantly impact participation.
Many teens are politically active and care about politics with every intention to vote, but they don’t follow through.
For states that don’t offer voting by mail, getting the time off work or school and making it out to the polls can be a big hurdle for those with busy academic, social, and work schedules.
Meredith Rolfe of the University of Massachusetts found that voter turnout is higher when states make it easier to vote. This includes strategies like making it possible to vote until election night, keeping voting offices open on evenings and weekends, and allowing absentee ballots.
One way to make this easier on your student could be to schedule time to walk them through your own process as you evaluate candidates and measures, review voter pamphlets, and fill out early ballots. This can be a great learning opportunity and a bonding experience for your family.
3) Make it a habit.
One of the primary reasons so many young people don’t vote could simply be because it’s not yet a habit. As with anything, sometimes it just takes practice and repetition for voting to really stick.
Getting teens on board to vote early can be the key to developing the habit. If your student gets their driver’s license before the age of 18, in many states they can pre-register to vote at the DMV, so they will be prepared when the time comes.
Most importantly, we need to talk with young voters about why it’s so important to vote and to contribute their voice to the future direction of our country. It’s a powerful message that can be best shared from adults and peers they respect. And afterward, take the time to celebrate! No matter the outcome, your student had a voice in the election.
If you need additional resources to help you engage your student in the election process, this website shows them how, step-by-step: https://www.vote411.org/first-time-voter-checklist.