As the 2018 election grows nearer, more and more young people are getting involved in voter registration and turnout efforts. With only a few exceptions, youth voter registration is up across the country, and much of the education and registration work this year has been led by students.
Here are a few recommendations for how educators can support student-led voter registration drives.
Teach about voting.
Look for ways to incorporate voting into your curriculum.
Teach the history. Teach the struggle for (and expansion of) voting rights in the United States.
Teach the present. Analyze your community’s turnout with students. Teach them about current controversies surrounding voting rights like laws requiring voter ID, policies to set up automatic voter registration, court debates on gerrymandering, recommendations for restoring voting rights to those who were formerly incarcerated, or proposals lowering the age to vote.
Teach the process. Review guidelines for registration and voting in your community. Consider inviting an expert into your class to discuss voting processes or give students an inside look at how elections work.
Help students connect with the project.
Students will be more likely to volunteer to lead or participate in the drive if they’re engaged with the issues.
Lead conversations about issues that affect your students. You might focus on hyper-local issues or look at how national challenges affect members of your community.
Develop assignments asking students to research candidates’ platforms, interview family and community members about their voting experiences, or debate local or state propositions.
Encourage civil discourse. Look for opportunities and incentives for students to participate in debates, assemblies or town halls—local or virtual.
Bring administrators on board early.
Help students plan a meeting early in the process.
Administrators can bring your school together for an assembly or coordinate class time for students to teach and learn about voting (and for older students to register or pre-register).
They can help students connect with local government events or speakers and with opportunities to publicize their drive.
They can help you and your students avoid or navigate tricky situations if the political climate in your community means that voter education or registration could provoke backlash.
Engage with families and community members.
Emphasize voting as a civic responsibility.
Consider sending information home about the work your students will be doing.
Reinforce nonpartisanship. Encourage students to focus on issues rather than candidates.
Encourage students to reach out directly to share their plans and enthusiasm with families and community members and invite their participation.
Consider hosting an open event at your school to engage community members and provide a venue for registration. Selma.splcenter.org offers a guide for screening Selma: The Bridge to the Ballot.
Let students lead.
When it comes to planning, promoting and running the drive itself, step back and let students take the lead.
Throughout the history of our democracy, young people have consistently led efforts to ensure equal and equitable representation and participation. Commit to encouraging the young people in your school and community to do the same.