6 Ways to Get Politically Involved If You're Under 18
Being unable to vote in this upcoming election doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to make meaningful contributions to voter turnout. While civil engagement and political advocacy are essential to democracy, staying safe during this public health crisis is the most important thing. So stay safe, stay home as much as possible, be sure to wear a mask and social distance!
Read reputable news sources to stay up-to-date on policy issues close to you and your community, and discuss with friends or family. Be sure to share news stories from reputable sources with friends and on social media, and be cautious of unreliable news articles in media. Check out this article from the University of Maryland Global Campus on how to check if your source is reliable.
Even if you can’t vote, local, state and national representatives still work for you. Calling your representative’s office is the best way to bring awareness to a personal or community issue. You probably won’t talk directly to the lawmaker but to an assistant who can pass the message along. Find who you’re D.C. representatives are and their contacts here. If you are shy, find issue-specific scripts here.
Writing letters to contact representatives is another way to share concerns. Resistbot is easy and works in 2 minutes; simply text it with your message. It will turn it into a letter for chosen representatives.
Volunteering with campaigns, advocacy groups, or organizations is a direct and easy way to get involved. There are many virtual ways to volunteer, such as phone banking, text banking, creating political posters for your neighborhood, writing postcards to voters, and many more! You can do this to spread the word about a specific candidate, voting information, an issue you care about, political affiliation, etc. Here and here are tools to find volunteer opportunities in your community.
Phone banking consists of calling many voters to spread the word and is the most efficient and personal way to canvass in light of the public health crisis. Calling or texting strangers can be daunting and repetitive, so host a virtual phone or text banking party with friends and family to get motivated and excited about getting involved.
If you are not comfortable talking with strangers, you can campaign to people you know in your community and friends about the importance of political engagement. Here you can find an easy app to reach out to friends by Rock the Vote, an organization aimed at building young people’s political power and voter turnout through a relational organization.
Start a Dialogue
Start a civic dialogue about your story and the importance of voting with friends, family, peers, and teachers, not a heated debate. Not only to broaden exposure to experiences but also to give a voice to yourself and others when many feel voiceless and divided. Encourage the adults in your life to vote early and safely through mail-in ballots.
Social media can be a tool of campaigning and a platform to express your opinion and call attention to important issues. You can use it to engage with representatives but be wary of news reliability from social media. Open-mindedness can also go a long way in avoiding heated arguments and allowing all voices to be heard. Here is a media-making tool kit by the Rep Us project by Tufts University, aimed at promoting youth voices and voting through social media.
If you are 16 or older:
Preregister to vote
In D.C., anyone 16 and older can preregister to vote while applying for a driver’s license or be done here. Once you turn 18, you will be automatically registered to vote in the next election.
Suppose you are 17 during the primaries, but will turn 18 by general election day in D.C. In that case, you can vote in the primaries despite not being 18.
Voting isn’t the only way to make yourself heard in this upcoming election; it can be as easy as texting a friend or starting a conversation. For books about voting, visit here, and for information about voting at the library, visit dclibrary.org/vote.