In recent elections, much has been made of both the indifference and lack of youth voter engagement, typically among those under the age of 25, but also of the power they have to affect the outcomes of elections given their numbers and the causes they care about. Democracy relies on the participation of its citizens, and the impact of new voters is becoming increasingly important in both state and national elections. Young adults' interests in social and legal issues have the potential to shape policy decisions and election outcomes. With this in mind, it is more important than ever to encourage higher youth voter turnout for the upcoming elections in 2024.
In recent elections, experts estimate that voters under the age of 25 represented less than 20% of the overall voter turnout, with less than half of registered or eligible voters taking part in elections. With so many young people caring passionately about political and social issues, one would think that youth civic participation would represent a fairly large and active voter bloc. Some of this has to do with people becoming disinterested because they feel their voices aren't heard by the government, and they have little faith in the system overall. On the other hand, lessons from past decades indicate that grassroots organizations and community outreach may be powerful agents of change and that underrepresented voices can be amplified by increasing youth voter turnout. Youth political involvement is crucial to this. While the specific methods of youth voter education and registration may vary by location, all efforts at mobilizing young voters should focus on getting young people interested in and excited about the electoral process.
The various mobilization tactics often aimed at new voters seek to encourage these eligible young people to participate in the electoral process more fully by increasing voter turnout and educating young people on their right to vote.
Youth voter registration drives have shown a great deal of promise, usually by organizing registration events and campaigns where there might be food or entertainment. Because of their comfort with modern technology, young people may find it more convenient to use the many online resources and voter registration websites available. In order to get the word out to as many people as possible, voter registration drives have collaborated with local groups, educational institutions, and commercial enterprises.
Door-to-door canvassing is another common strategy, in which volunteers go to different areas and talk to people there. Studies have also shown this to be a very successful way of promoting youth political engagement. Voter registration, polling place identification, and other electoral details can be discussed in door-to-door encounters. Phone banking also does well to alert voters about future elections in their polling locations. They can also be used to conduct phone surveys to learn about people's attitudes about political topics and their feelings about the voting process.
Some candidates use SMS text message campaigns to remind voters of important election dates and registration deadlines. Online and social media campaigns highlighting candidates, issues, and voting dates are particularly helpful in getting the word out and motivating young voters.
By offering workshops and seminars on the electoral process in schools and libraries to help educate voters, organizations can further mobilize youth participation. Young people often don't vote because of confusion or because they are scared off by the electoral process. Youth voting education efforts can continue up until election day itself, when information booths or tables can be set up near voting places to provide any last-minute assistance that is needed. Campaigns aimed at motivating new voters and to register new voters might reach out to local youth by partnering with community groups and charities already active in the area. Organizers may employ a variety of strategies to bring voters out to the polls based on factors like the sort of election coming up and the amount of resources at their disposal. To increase voter turnout, especially among young and first-time voters, a combination of these strategies is highly beneficial.
Courses in civics and political science can be found on online education platforms like Khan Academy and Coursera. These courses often have video lectures and quizzes to help learners retain the material. Government websites, especially at the state level, are also valuable resources for educational content on civic education. The Center for Civic Education is only one of several nonprofits and schools that have created a wealth of materials to teach young people about voting and civic engagement. Many podcasts and YouTube channels are presented by professionals in the field and can be a great resource for learning more about a topic. Voters can get educated on the issues before they head to the polls by listening to podcasts like Civics 101 and The Weeds. Finally, it is highly recommended that youth voting movements make use of library resources in order to register to vote online or access the many books, journals, and other educational materials on civics and politics that are available through libraries.
In addition to encouraging young people to participate in the democratic process, educational efforts should stress the significance of making well-informed voting decisions and selecting candidates who share one's own values and worldview. The value of diversity and representation should not be forgotten, especially when dealing with young voters. Because those who don't share the same demographics as the country’s leadership are typically shut out of the political process, governments whose leadership is too homogenous tend to be unbalanced. To ensure that all residents of a town or country are fairly represented, a healthy democracy employs a diversified political leadership. To this end, young people who care about the issues at stake in politics should seriously consider running for office, either as independent candidates or on a third-party ticket. Many youth voter engagement campaign tactics by lesser known parties focus on youth engagement as a key strategy.
Although the electoral landscape might seem rather grim with the low voter turnout amongst young voters in recent elections, it is important to remember the various times in which grassroots campaigns and attempts at mobilizing young voters were indeed successful. Consider the following examples:
Rock the Vote is a nonpartisan youth voter engagement organization that has been active in the United States for decades and successful in mobilizing young voters. It was started in 1990 with the intention of getting young people involved in politics through the means of entertainment such as music and other forms of popular culture. A great example of a "get out the vote" effort to get young people out to the polls, the group hosted music festivals, concerts, and online initiatives. In 2020, their "Democracy Summer" campaign collaborated with artists and cultural influencers to get more young people registered to vote and to the polls. As a result, there was a surge in voting among young people.
New Zealand's "Make It 16" campaign was responsible for getting people aged 16 and 17 to the polls when the country dropped its voting age from 18 to 16 for municipal elections in 2013. The movement succeeded in drawing attention to and backing for their cause through grassroots organizing, social media, and general public participation. This campaign served as a reminder of the power young people have to influence legislation, particularly as it pertains to their own lives.
Coordinated demonstrations can be very effective. Swedish environmentalist and activist Greta Thunberg used her international prestige to rally young adults to take action on climate change by going on climate strikes. Millions of young people all across the world mobilized to take action against climate change after hearing about Thunberg's movement. These strikes had a significant impact on youth voter engagement and the conversation around local environmental policy, and led to more young people becoming active in politics.
When considering why young people don't participate in elections and the democratic process, it's important to consider the many challenges in youth voter engagement and that voting for young people can often come with a minefield of hardships to overcome. Particularly for people from economically disadvantaged families, these challenges might seem insurmountable, and strategies for youth voter mobilization must account for these hurdles.
Many people have trouble registering to vote because they don't have the money to get the required state-issued photo ID or because there isn't a registration location that is convenient for them. Voter registration drives, especially those hosted at businesses and universities, enable young voters to overcome this obstacle and find their way into the voting process. Many young voters are registered who otherwise would not have been if it weren't for internet registration, free resources, and collaborations with community organizations.
Disenfranchisement and a lack of interest among voters are also issues with youth voting. Some young people don't see the need to vote since they don't think the election process has any bearing on their lives. They may be surprised to find out how much legislation impacts them after it has already been approved by candidates they didn't bother to vote for.
Young voters can be motivated to participate in elections through grassroots efforts and peer-to-peer communication. However, disenfranchisement may represent a further complication in this area. Protecting the voting rights of young people and minorities is an ongoing endeavor, as barriers like voter identification requirements and limited access to polling sites might discourage young people from voting. Voting places on university campuses can make college student voting easier. Voting by mail or in advance can also help more people participate in elections.
Misinformation online, skepticism and distrust of what little information people do find on government websites, and the scheduling of elections with complicated voting processes are further issues. Even though it is a legal requirement for businesses to give their young employees time off to vote, some elections can be difficult to participate in because they frequently take place during the school day and during working hours, making it difficult for young people to get away to vote.
Never discount the power of young people's participation in politics to bring about constructive change. Are you ready to amplify your voice in democracy? Join Good Party’s growing community and be part of a movement that empowers young voters. Make your voice heard, influence change, and be the difference your generation needs. Get involved now!