2017 was an exciting year for Inspire U.S. Hannah Mixdorf, Inspire U.S. National Program Manager, reflects on our successes and shares our plans for 2018.
We have a saying at Inspire U.S. that our worlds are never standing still. This year has proven to be no exception - 2017 brought us new opportunities, new challenges, new students, new high schools, and new elections for young voices to be heard at the polls. Our staff continues to be committed to energizing and mobilizing the youngest generation of voters by encouraging them to engage their peers to register to vote and cast a ballot on election day.
In 2017, our staff and students were able to register and pledge 21,000 new voters in over 200 high schools across 8 different states. One of our most exciting voter registration initiatives came out of West Virginia where students across the state participated in a Fantasy Football style challenge. Students registered more than 3,000 new voters in their high schools within two months! Our long-standing partnership with the Kentucky YMCA Youth in Government program has expanded this year enabling students to register 1,300 peer voters this fall.
One exciting piece of news is that we’ve grown our programming to work with high schools in California, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin! We also expanded our voter registration efforts in Virginia this past spring to include high schools in the Richmond area.
Inspire U.S was a premier partner for National Voter Registration Day (NVRD), held the last Tuesday of September. This year, Inspire U.S. registered 2,560 new high school voters throughout NVRD week. Mesa School District in Arizona was particularly exciting - schools across the district were able to register more than 1,500 high school students!
One important area of partnership for us has always been our relationships with Secretaries of State, Governors' Offices, Boards of Education, and other state-wide entities who have collaborated with us to recognize high schools which are committed to nonpartisan voter registration and voter engagement. This year, 50 of our high schools across the country were recognized by these offices for registering a high percentage of their senior classes to vote. Additionally, Inspire U.S. partnered with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State and Governor and with the Wisconsin Council for the Social Studies to create two new awards to recognize schools in each of those states who register students to vote.
There were several elections in 2017 where young people played an important role. The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) estimated that the Virginia youth voter turnout doubled between 2009 and 2017. We are excited that our students who registered and pledged in Virginia are turning out to vote at a much higher rate than previous elections. In Denver, Colorado, the youth turnout was 23% across the city for a local school board election which saw its first 18 year-old candidate run for the District 3 seat. We’re excited that one-quarter of registered 18 year-olds in Denver County either registered to vote or pledged to vote with Inspire during the past year.
We continue to grow and develop partnerships across the country. In the past year, we have worked with IssueVoter and BallotReady’s Civic Engine tool to create easy access points for high school students to connect with their elected officials and ballots. We’ll continue to refine these tools and utilize them in classrooms to truly engage students in the political process.
In 2018, we are building up to the midterm elections and preparing students to vote through more voter registration drives, Get out the Vote (GOTV) efforts and engagement with candidates and elected officials. We are excited to continue to be amazed by young people across the country as they continue to lead their generation through voter registration and voter turnout.
Young people have truly shown us this year that Generation Z isn’t just the future of our country, but the now.