Democracy, Deadlines & Determined Young People

By: Irene Franco Rubio, My School Votes National Regional Organizer

Photo Source: Irene Franco Rubio

This year, one in ten eligible voters will be between the ages of 18 and 23. Young people have the power to decide this election if we all show up. Amid the uncertainty and pressure we face with such high stakes, the youth vote truly has the power to shape the outcome of the 2020 elections on a local, state and federal level — from your local school board to the state senate.

In 2018, only 31% of eligible voters ages 18–29 voted in the midterm elections. Despite the obstacles we face at the ballot box, 83% of young people still believe we have the power to change the country.

At When We All Vote, our youth voter initiative My School Votes is an effort to empower, engage and mobilize young people, from their classrooms to their neighboring communities.

Follow these 5 steps to join the team!

  1. Create your own voter registration page to register your friends to vote!
  2. Join your regional state team meeting & bring 5 friends with you!
  3. Present to your virtual classrooms on the importance of voting!
  4. Get your classmates registered to vote!

There’s a misconception about young people — that we don’t want to engage in politics or that we simply don’t care about the future of our country and the world around us. Reality is, we recognize the power we have as young people, and we are willing to do what it takes to stand up against injustice, but we’ve historically been disconnected from the polls and oftentimes it becomes difficult to put all of our hopes and dreams into one basket and wish for the best.

For young people of color in particular, it is especially vital we make our voices heard — from our classrooms, to the dinner table to the ballot box — to shift the way our communities think about voting while creating a culture in each and every household where voting is valued.

To fight this myth I encourage and challenge my peers to take action beyond Election Day.

We must work collaboratively and motivate our peers to do the same, on and offline, and hold our peers accountable to actually show up. This election is perhaps one of the most important elections of our lifetimes, but the work doesn’t stop after November 3rd.

Video filmed by My School Votes students to get their classmates registered to vote before the October 19th deadlines.

We don’t have the luxury of choosing when we want to take action. We must organize and mobilize our communities beyond the presidential election. Changing the culture around voting among young people has definitely been a challenge, but not impossible.

Rhobie Toussaint, My School Votes student ambassador says, “We do it because we care. I have and will continue to put countless hours in encouraging my peers to vote through My School Votes because it is just so important. Through organizing, I am uplifting my community and being the change I want to see in this world. It’s about so much more than just registering students and young people to vote. This is a youth-led movement.”

That’s why we need to organize our communities all the time — not just during a critical election year. We can’t just expect young people to vote when we don’t have as much time to really dive-in on the importance of it. As young people, we need to be proactive, interfere and get engaged, before it’s too late.

Video made by My School Votes students to get their classmates registered to vote before the North Carolina deadline.

So, how do we organize our communities and change culture in the off years? When we integrate critical voting conversations into our daily lives, when we actively engage in our communities through civic participation, and when we can transition our digital efforts to direct community engagement, we can truly shift the culture around voting.

Young people are vital to the movement for change. It is time we equip one another with the knowledge we need to participate in our democracy, it is time we bridge the divide between the classroom and real-world politics, and it is time our voices are heard.

If we don’t vote, we’re giving everyone else ultimate control over our lives and giving them the opportunity to speak for us. If we don’t vote, we’ll definitely wish we would’ve.

Over the next 18 days, 24 million Gen Z voters will have the chance to speak out against those who’ve tried to silence their voices. When we all vote, we’re speaking and standing up for ourselves and what we believe in. Voting isn’t the only thing that will make the world a better place but it’s a necessary first step that we know can determine the outcome of this election.

When We All Vote is dedicated to changing the culture around voting and closing the race and age gap in voter registration to increase voter turnout in every election. My School Votes, our youth voter initiative, aims to empower educators and students to change the culture around voting in their schools, and ensure that all students are registered and ready to vote in every election. Join us at WhenWeAllVote.org.

We’re shaping the promise of our democracy through voter registration and participation. Because #WhenWeAllVote, we can change the world. WhenWeAllVote.org