Looking for a way to get involved in politics that isn’t just casting a ballot? You’re in luck. Here are some ideas to engage in the civic process!
With minor elections around the corner and the General election swiftly approaching next year, it can be frustrating for young people who want to make their voices heard. Sure, you want to join the youth voter movement, but you’re too young to register or vote this year. Staring down an election year is daunting enough, but knowing that you won’t be able to head to the polls adds another layer of anxiety. Luckily, though, there are things you can do to get involved with politics as a teenager without casting a ballot.
1. Sign Petitions
If you care about what’s happening in the USA, then signing petitions that align with your beliefs is a great way to get started using your voice. This relatively low-investment action can have major payoff down the line. There are a variety of websites dedicated to helping petitions gain traction. Change.org and We the People are the big two, but there are others out there that might be of interest as well. Just sign up, sign your name, and know that you’re turning your opinions into tangible action.
2. Stay Informed
It may sound simple, but staying informed is a great way to become a part of the civic process before you head to the ballot box. Knowing what is happening in your community, knowing the candidates, and engaging in meaningful discussions about the issues is a never-ending job for each and every member of the voting public. Getting started on the process now is a great way to hone those skills and ensure that you are an informed voter when the next election rolls around. If you want to go one step further in your voter prep, take Inspire’s Pledge to Register or Pledge to Vote. We’ll remind you to register when the time comes to register, and/or when to head to the polls!
3. Host a Voter Registration Drive to Register Your Peers
We at Inspire are non-partisan, but we do have one big bias: we think hosting voter registration drives is one of the best ways to encourage youth political participation. You don’t have to do it through our program, but registering your classmates to vote multiplies youth civic engagement exponentially! If you want help and live in one of our footprint states (AZ, CA, CO, KY, NV, NC, PA, TX, VA, or WV), fill out an Inspired Leader application. If not, reach out to us and we will try to get you in touch with an organization that does similar work in your area.
4. Become a Poll Worker
Becoming a poll worker is a great way to learn about how the voting process works and give your time to a worthy cause. If you’ve never voted before (and we’re guessing you haven’t because you’re reading this!), poll workers are the people who check registration, distribute ballots, keep the polling center organized, and keep the civic process running smoothly. You’d get to participate in poll worker training and learn the ins-and-outs of the election process on the micro level. Believe it or not, many states do not require you to be of voting age to work the polls. You can check out the information for your state over on the American Constitution Society’s website.
5. Give Your Time to a Cause You Believe In
There are tons of organizations that use their resources to speak about all different types of issues. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there are non-governmental organizations out there doing work to progress the cause. Identify an issue that matters to you, do some research to find an organization that’s working towards the outcome you want, and see how you can lend a hand. It might be organizing a fundraiser at your school, showing up to a march, participating in a Twitter campaign, or contributing to a community art project. Whatever the format, most organizations have ways for young people to get involved and use their voices. You just have to find the one that works for you.
6. Contact Your Representative
If there is an issue up for debate in your community that you feel strongly about, contacting your representative is an effective way to make your voice heard. The U.S. is a federal republic, which is a type of representative democracy. That means that we elect people to represent our interests… but they can’t know what their constituents want unless we tell them! As a young voter, it’s likely that your voice wasn’t a part of electing your current representative, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make them listen. Write a letter, make a call, send an email, tweet or use IssueVoter to track bills and reach out! Put the issue you care about at the top of the list however you can.
7. Use Your Talents
Are you an artist? A writer? A programmer? Maybe you’re a dancer or you love to solve complicated math problems. No matter what your talent is, you can probably turn it into civic action. If you’re thinking that you’re too young to solve a problem or too young for anyone to pay attention to your ideas, just remember that everyone who has ever done something amazing has been where you are. Make a painting, write an opinion piece, create a website, put on a fundraising performance, or come up with a better way to handle the budget (hey, it’s a long shot, but you never know)! Whatever you’re best at can be your tool to get involved with the political process.
Remember, increasing youth civic engagement starts with you! You’ve made the first step towards making a change. Now you just have to dive in.