As parents, aunts and uncles, extended family members or simply friends of any young person in our lives, one of the most important contributions to the success and well being of this next generation that we can bestow is a blueprint for activism and the gift of empowerment. And right now, there’s nothing more urgent on that front than instilling a commitment to voting.
Like every rite of passage in a person’s life, voting – and all that comes with it – takes guidance and sometimes ‘a village’ to make it happen. So, as just one of our culture’s most beloved sayings goes, let “each one teach one” and help ensure that the young adults in your life participate in shaping their future by turning out at the polls this November.
Here are a few steps and suggestions to get the ball rolling:
- Casually kick off a conversation with younger people by asking what current issues matter to them most right now. Are they supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement, concerned about climate change, preserving a woman’s right to choose and/or increasing the minimum wage? Are they concerned about the high cost of education and student loans, preserving access to healthcare through President Obama’s Affordable Care Act? Whatever their issues may be, what the presidential candidates’ positions on them are can be found online at their respective websites: hillaryclinton.com/issues and www.donaldjtrump.com/policies
- If you find that they’re interested in changing the circumstances that directly affect the lives of Black people in this country, be sure to turn them on to ColorofChange.org Color of Change is the nation’s largest online social justice organization dedicated to creating a more human and less hostile world for Black people, and all people, in America.
- With these things in mind, the moment has come to ask if they’re registered and planning to vote. No need to ask ‘who’ they’re voting for, but congratulations are definitely in order if you learn that they’re definitely heading to the polls on
- If you find that registration is the next step, offer to help make that happen or point out that it will take less than 5 minutes online by logging on to CommonCause.org/register-vote no matter what state you live in. Registration deadlines do vary from state to state but the Common Cause website will alert you to those deadlines on a case by case basis.
- If you find that the person in question is not planning to vote, the next step of course is to encourage them to re-think their position on that by engaging in a discussion that will hopefully persuade them to take every opportunity they can to stand up, be heard and to vote in the interest of protecting their rights, their choices, the people they love and the issues that they care about.
Bear in mind that, depending on their age, many young people are not tuned in to news or politics on a daily basis. As a result, a lack of familiarity with the candidates and the issues could easily undermine a person’s confidence and inclination to vote at all. If you suspect this is the case:
- Offer to share your own thoughts on the candidates and the most important measures and referendums on the ballot and to provide the web addresses for nonpartisan voter information sources such as the leading local newspapers that generally always offer Voting Guides. Voting Guides can provide very handy summaries of the pros and cons of each issue and each candidate’s positions along with that publication’s own endorsements and the rationale for each one.
- Do a search and forward interesting online articles and video content on the issues that both engage and inform. One particularly entertaining example is news satirist John Oliver’s recent 20 minute segment for his HBO series ‘Last Week Tonight’. It takes a hilarious and even-handed look at several of Clinton and Trump’s most notorious controversies and is an excellent example of great ‘info-tainment’ that definitely captivates and leaves anyone who watches it far more
‘in the know’. Check it out at http://deadline.com/2016/09/john-oliver-donald-trump-hillary-clinton-compares-scandals-first-debate-video-1201825925/ and be sure to pass the link along to all of the new voters in your life!
- RocktheVote.com is another great resource that’s designed specifically to introduce young people to the voting process. But, be prepared to hear something along the lines of “my vote doesn’t matter” or “I don’t like any of the choices, so I’m just going to sit this one out”. Statements like those provide a perfect opportunity to drop an indisputable truth: that millionaires and billionaires can throw all the money in the world toward influencing an election, but in the end, the great equalizer lies in the fact that “Your one vote is every bit as powerful as theirs. So, please don’t ever sell yourself short on the power you have.”
This is an excellent moment to underscore the decades of impact that the next president will have in appointing Supreme Court justices with the power to dictate laws that will directly affect them and their loved ones for generations to come.
- You might also point out that in election year 2000, Al Gore ultimately lost to George W. Bush by a margin of just 537 votes in the state of Florida. The US population at that time was 282 million people. But because Florida’s 29 electoral votes were the deciding factor in the race, those 537 votes put George W. Bush in a position to commit this country to war in Iraq and Afghanistan only a year later. At 15 years and counting, our country remains in the midst of its longest war ever, already costing more than 7,000 American men and women their lives. And with this in mind, why would anyone – whose friends, family, themselves and soon enough their own children be subjected – let such life and death decisions be made without so much as exercising the sacred right to vote that so many of us are still fighting to hold onto?
- Consider organizing or hosting Debate Watch parties that help make the political dialogue and the process of participation far more social and fun, particularly for those that are new to this very important chapter of life. The dates of the remaining debates are:
Tuesday, 10/4: Vice Presidential Debate
Sunday, 10/9: 2nd Presidential Debate
Wednesday, 10/19: 3rd Presidential Debate
- And lastly, do consider putting together a ‘Carpool Phone Tree’ wherein friends and family volunteer to divvy up and call every member of your growing tribe on November 7th to ensure everyone is confirmed with or offered a ride to their polling place on the 8th.
In the end, there’s nothing like crossing the finish line together in victory!
Written by Vallery Kountze