Last September, YouthCare launched a two-month Get Out the Vote 2020 campaign for staff and youth. The campaign included a variety of initiatives—from presentations across YouthCare programs to partnerships with National Voter Registration Day, National Voter Education Week, National Vote Early Day, and the Election Trust Project. Through email campaigns, resource sharing, and social media, we’ve worked hard to make voting as accessible as possible for our community.
BIPOC Excellence on Real Talk Thursdays
YouthCare’s University District Youth Center (UDYC) also hosted two election-themed conversations during their BIPOC Excellence on Real Talk Thursdays—a monthly community conversation for young people, staff, and community members to chat about issues in our country and in our own backyard..
- September’s conversation centered around breaking down voter apathy and voter fatigue. Young people who attended the virtual gathering expressed concerns about the impacts of voting. They spoke about corruption and voter suppression and how difficult it is to change the status quo. The group talked about the need to work toward a more inclusive future and place political power in the hands of those who have their communities’ best interests at heart. They also recognized this may include working within a system they do not agree with or feel supported by in order to design a better system for the future.
- October’s conversation offered a breakdown of voter registration processes and eligibility in Washington State, including how to register as a houseless individual or former felon. In partnership with the Washington Bus, the group continued to explore voter apathy, mobilizing young people, and the importance of local elections. The group also talked about how those in power may be counting on marginalized folks and Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) to NOT vote in order to maintain the status quo.
“Why would I vote for someone who does not look like me? They won’t have my best interests at heart…It’s not about simply turning in that paper – it’s about getting people in power that actually address the issues.” – Anonymous Over-18 Young Person
The lack of nationwide education regarding voting processes and procedures creates barriers that prevent many young people from voting. In fact, the U.S. has one of the lowest rates of voter turnout amongst young people in the world, with only 46% of 18-29 year-olds voting in 2016 compared to 70% of those ages 60+. A recent survey by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement found that while most young people ages 18-24 are paying attention to the 2020 election, a third didn’t know if they could register to vote online in their state.
All young people have valuable voices that need to be heard this election season. As we near election day, it’s important to engage in conversations around civic duty and amplify the needs of our communities by voting. By removing obstacles to voting, we can close the gap between our youngest and oldest voters.
The good news is that it seems to be working! We’re thrilled to see youth participation in electoral politics increasing in Washington state. In fact, this year we are set to see record-breaking numbers of youth representation at the polls across the nation. This is ongoing work that doesn’t end after this election.
These next few days—and the election season as a whole—can be traumatic and draining for our communities, especially our BIPOC loved ones. Kindness, empathy, and understanding should guide our actions and words as we move into politically heated times together.
Let’s make sure we all feel supported, seen, and heard so we can create change together.
And, most important, don’t forget to VOTE!
- If you haven’t dropped off your ballot yet, we urge you to find time today to pass by your nearest ballot box. Voting today means avoiding long lines on election day and protecting time for self-care!
- Remember, in-person registration is still available at all WA Vote Centers. Find your nearest Vote Center, its hours, and address HERE.
- Already dropped off your ballot? Track your ballot’s acceptance at https://voter.votewa.gov/WhereToVote.aspx.
- The Washington Bus has put together this wonderful, comprehensive guide to voting in WA for young voters. Check it out for tips about how to engage young people in your communities.