Increasing youth votes will strengthen our democracy

“In New York City, where more than 3 million people voted in 2020, voters under the age of 30 accounted for the largest increase in turnout of any age group.”

Adi Talwar

Half of Americans are getting older 18-29 voted in the 2020 general election, one of the highest youth voting rates in decades, up 11 points from 2016 (from 39 to 50%). The reasons for this historic increase are manifold, with the COVID-19 pandemic topping the list of issues for young voters, followed by racism and climate change.

The 18-24 age group in particular, “Generation Z”, saw the largest increase in participation. Many took part in the summer’s political and racial protests, and it appears their activism led to their votes in greater numbers. This generation understands that their lives and that of future generations depend not only on how they vote today, but also on their civic engagement in their local and global communities. Voting is a way to make their voice heard and to have an impact on policies.

In New York, where more than 3 million people voted in 2020, voters under 30 included the largest increase in participation of all age groups, according to a New York City Campaign Finance Board report. These young voters went to the polls at a higher rate in the 2020 general election than they have in nearly a decade. More than 59.3% of registered voters aged 18 to 29 voted, up 3.4% from 2016 and 4.2% from 2012.

Despite these promising signs, the national youth participation rate is almost 25% lower than that of voters 65 and over; it is clear that there is still work to be done to engage and educate young voters. Educate for American Democracy (EAD) is an example of this work. It is “an unprecedented effort that brought together a diverse and inter-ideological group of academics and educators to create a Roadmap for Education for American Democracy“Directions and an investigative framework that states, local school districts and educators can use to transform history and civics education to meet the needs of a diverse student body from kindergarten to 12th century. The authors write: “Over the past decades, as a nation, we have failed to prepare young Americans for self-government, leaving the world’s oldest democracy in grave danger.

As declared by CIRCLE, Tufts University’s Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, “The electoral systems and preparation that many young people receive (or do not receive) to become informed voters are inadequate, resulting in large variations in voting rates by race / ethnicity, level of education, and other socioeconomic and demographic factors. When certain groups have more say in what happens in their communities and in the nation, we do not respect the principle of our democracy, which is based on participation… widening the vote of young people is one of the vital tasks strengthening democracy.

The association that I co-founded in 2018, MyVote Project (MVP), is uniquely positioned, with strong successes over the past three years, to meet the urgent need for comprehensive, non-partisan, and easily accessible information about candidates and their positions on political issues so that voters can make informed decisions in the ballot box.

Powered by a network of nearly 300 student volunteers, MVP combines old-fashioned community outreach with digitally-themed voter engagement techniques using social media, virtual meetings and an interactive website designed to educate, and not influence, the voters. In June 2021, in time for the New York primary elections, MVP relaunched its website, providing non-partisan information on candidates for local offices in select cities and towns in eight states, including New York.

Voters can access the political positions of candidates without having to research each one. By simply entering their zip codes one month before the election, users see policies relevant to their communities and platforms for candidates running in their jurisdictions. Applicant information is maintained by student volunteers located across the country, using a standardized process to search for applicants and provide only information taken from applicants’ own words on their websites and social media. So far, volunteers have searched more than 15,000 applicants in cities and states across the country, including New York City.

To support this work, we co-hosted three virtual forums attended by approximately 200 people in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and Manhattan, where local candidates for New York City Council were invited to share their thoughts. platforms and Rank the vote provided voter education training. Other partners included YVote and VoteRiders.

Meera Nagulendran is our senior volunteer student for New York State. She is a junior at Baruch College Campus High School in Manhattan who joined the MyVote project last year at the age of 15. Her mother, Kavitha Mathew, is on the board of directors of her local community and Meera looks forward to being old enough to follow in her mother’s path. She leads events and field engagements in New York and co-leads our team of coalitions to connect us with partners.

I am proud to be part of the movement to transform American democracy by getting educated and informed young people to vote. For those who are too young to vote, this is the start of their civic education. Our volunteers will be in the field throughout New York City, handing out flyers, putting up posters with our QR code for easy access to our website, and going to places offering early voting, as well as offices. on Election Day, to encourage voters to go to our website and learn more about the candidates.

MyVote Project builds leaders within communities to create a more informed electorate whose interests are represented by their candidates. We currently cover the communities where our volunteers live. As many of them cannot yet vote, this volunteer work gives them a voice. Our hope next year is to do extensive coverage for every primary election we are in in the state.

Gita Stulberg is the co-founder of MyVote Project, as well as a community organizer and political strategist. She got her start in politics as a pollster for Blum and Weprin Associates.

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