Monday, March 25, 2024

Engaging Youth in the 2024 Elections

Source: Center for Tech and Civic Life

By Sam Piha

The 2024 election offers a number of opportunities to engage older youth. But these opportunities require input from youth and staff, organizing and planning- so start program planning NOW! 
There is no better time for youth to be involved in making a change through the ballot box. We can frame these efforts as “meaningful participation”, “civic engagement”, “youth leadership” or “community service”. There are a number of organizations and initiatives that have designed curriculums, program tools and other materials to assist afterschool providers in their efforts to engage youth in the 2024 elections. This blog is an excerpt from our recently released briefing paper entitled, How Can Afterschool Programs Promote Civic Engagement and the Youth Vote in 2024.

Dispelling Myths about Youth Voting
“When many members of the public talk about young people's civic and political participation, they often rely on and perpetuate myths about youth voting and youth attitudes toward civic life. These myths can reflect a lack of understanding of the complex dynamics that shape young people's engagement in democracy. At best, they paint an incomplete picture of these dynamics; at worst, they misrepresent them entirely. These inaccuracies can hinder efforts to increase youth voting and other forms of civic participation.
“Young people today are constantly depicted as disengaged and irresponsible. In fact, we are anything but. We are more progressive than our parents, more educated, and far more connected. We are powerful, engaged, and ready to lead.” [i]
CIRCLE's two decades of research on these topics, and our work on the ground with a diverse set of partners and practitioners, have given us the data and understanding to dispel some of these myths:
·       Young People Are Apathetic
·       Youth Voting Has Been Declining for Decades

Source: CIRCLE

(The estimates above are from CIRCLE analysis of voter file data in recent elections. Estimates based on the Census data produce slightly different results but allow us to examine historical trends over the past 50 years.)
·       Young People Just Choose Not to Vote
·       Young People Are All Liberal College Students
·       Young Voters Don't Impact Elections.” 

Dispelling these myths is crucial for understanding and addressing the barriers that may prevent young people from fully participating in the democratic process. Encouraging youth engagement and empowering young voters are essential for ensuring a vibrant and inclusive democracy.” [ii] 

We interviewed several afterschool leaders on the importance of youth involvement in the elections. 

Q: Do you think it is important to encourage youth to be involved in the 2024 election? (this could involve making a plan to vote, registering students who will be eligible to vote, volunteering for a campaign or candidate that they agree with, etc.) If yes, why?

RF- YES! We think it is very important to encourage youth to be involved in 2024 election at both the local and national level. One of our greatest rights, and responsibility as an American, is the right to Vote – which was not afforded to everyone throughout our history. I happen think everyone should be given a voter registration card when they are issued their birth certificate, it’s that important.

JF- Yes, I think it's very important and so do the youth we work with. Our youth feel that their voice matters even if they can not "vote". At a few of our high schools in Oakland, we have lots of civic leadership/action groups including a group of students in our program who go to Sacramento every year to meet with Legislators and share their stories about the importance of expanded learning programs. We'll be there again with over 60 young people on March 12th. 

SV- I do think it's absolutely imperative to encourage and support youth to be involved in the 2024 election. Although youth can be quite vocal (and influential) on social media about issues important to them, statistically speaking however, they are one of the least engaged groups when it comes to voter turnout. 

Q: Could you describe what you are planning to do with engaging youth in the 2024 election?

RF - We plan to host registration events, and possibly even parties; on election day, we plan to go with teens who are voting for the first time and to make a big deal of it (e.g., “It’s my first time voting” hats or sashes).

Q: When should programs begin planning for this? 

RF- NOW! States will have different deadlines for voter registration so be sure you know what they are.

SV- I think it's never too early for programs to plan for this. 

Q: How should youth be involved? 

RF- They can be involved in planning, they can be trained to help register others to vote, they can create messages about the importance of voting, they can schedule meetings with various candidates or attend Town Hall events and submit questions for prospective candidates- they can host their own forums with the candidates.

JF- There are many ways youth can be involved and one of the ways that we support, especially during expanded learning programs, is to provide a space for youth to discuss the topics, issues and challenges they feel are important to them and their communities, then, discuss the possible solutions and who can support the possible solutions and resolutions. This includes local, state and national elected officials. It's important that students continue to explore local officials and the causes that are on top for them.  

Bay Area Community Resources (BACR) is part of a statewide youth civic action group called TACA (Teens Advocating for Civic Action) and students meet monthly on zoom to discuss the issues they're facing and the action steps they're taking including the upcoming election and its impact on those issues.

SV- I think youth should be involved in the planning and implementation as much as possible, from informing the creation of lesson plans/contents (via advisory committees, polls, surveys, etc.) to co-facilitation for their peers and helping these programs be student-driven/led as much as possible. At the end of the day, students listen to their peers more than adults. Involving youth is crucial to ensure their voices are heard, and we are not addressing these topics through our adult lens.

[i] Chat GPT, How is youth engagement in elections and voting good for the community?

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