During the 2016 Election, less than half of 18- and 19-year olds registered to vote, even though young voters account for almost half of the voting population. Current voting data shows that only 53% of the U.S. voting population cast a ballot in the 2018 midterm election, even though it was the highest midterm turnout in 40 years. The key: getting young voters involved when they are young.
Current research shows that young people who cast a ballot earlier in their lives are more likely to continue to do so throughout their lives. Why? Being involved in the election process or civic participation, even in a small way, is a decisive factor for increased and often lifelong participation.
Young voters have a multitude of issues for which they can advocate, from college debt protection to gun violence to systemic racism. Indeed, as we have seen with March for Life and Black Lives Matter advocacy, teens today are more socially active than ever before. Getting teens involved in this coming election and other elections is critical. But how?
Rock the Vote
Right now in Ohio, teens who are 17 and who will turn 18 on or before Election Day on November 3 are eligible to vote. The first step for eligible teens is to register to vote. While young people are more inclined than ever to vote, unfortunately, what holds teens back from registering to vote is not knowing how to start the process or understanding its mechanics. Since the process differs for each state, the myriad of methods can be confusing.
That is one reason that the League of Women Voters National sponsors VOTE411.org, an organization that will provide state by state voting information. It can help eligible teens figure out their voting options.
In Ohio, voter registration closes on October 5. If you are in college at election time, students should check out the Voting & Elections section at ohio.gov, which is located under the “Our State Government” tab.
Teens who want to get involved in Election 2020 have multiple opportunities to help. This year, because of COVID-19, many older poll workers who typically work the polls will not be working due to the risk. In Montgomery County, teenagers are eligible to work the polls (and may even earn extra credit for it in their government classes) if they:
- are 17 years old and a senior in high school
- are a U.S. citizen and a resident of Montgomery (or Greene) County
- are able to read and write English, arrange their transportation, and lift 35 pounds
- are committed to training and time on Election Day
- have a 2.5 GPA.
In Hamilton County, teens can sign up at Youth at the Booth (https://votehamiltoncountyohio.gov/become-poll-worker/register-for-youth-at-the-booth). Teens can also participate in candidate forums that are often run by the League of Women Voters or other organizations.
Teens have other options, too. They can participate in voter registration events on campus or even at their high school. They can get involved with individual candidates and their campaigns, especially on a local level. All these things are great opportunities to get involved and make a difference.