I know that this year, a lot of teens, including my own 17 year old, are even more motivated to get out and do something to impact November’s election. But for socially conscious teens under 18, it can be frustrating that they can’t make a difference at the the ballot box specifically.
Fortunately, there are so many different ways our non-voting-age teens can still make a difference or volunteer to support other voters and the candidates and causes they like. (And hey, adults too!)
So we’ve put together a list of actionable and important ways that older kids help on both the local and national level. Because if there’s one thing our teens have, it’s energy, passion, and a belief that they are are right.
Top photo © Christina Refford: If only I could VOTE! pin via Love and Victory
Talk to voters, via phone, text, or in writing
In our recent post that described 3 action steps we can do to help voters, Liz reviewed over a dozen ways Americans can get involved in either phone banking for candidates, texting messages to voters in swing states, or writing letters or postcards to remind people to vote.
In our home, we have been writing letters to registered voters through Vote Forward, and my teens are helping me address and stamp each envelope. And, I know many teens would love to design or color Postcards to Voters (shown above) which are mailed to registered Democrats before the election.
Also, tell them to keep an eye on their social feeds for group GOTV events (online, of course) that pop up all the time, like tonight’s event from our friends at TueNight and Persisticom. Every little reminder helps.
Make yard signs, banners, or chalk art for important causes or political races
Photo © Christina Refford
What matters most to your teens? Is it the environment? Racial justice? Climate change? Women’s rights and access to birth control? (Sorry parents, those are the facts.) Maybe even all of the above? Give your kids the chance to tell the world — or neighborhood — by creating yard signs or banners to hang on your front door, stake in your lawn, or bring to an outdoor demonstration. The post, how to make a protest sign, if you have no skills by Art Bar Blog has some great tips on how to make some DIY signs with your teens.
They work, by the way — after Liz suggested posting lawn signs, one reader wrote back to say it gave her the courage to put several in her “purple” neighborhood…and she was surprised to find that many neighbors followed suit, inspired by her example. Yes!
Also know that colorful chalk drawings can literally stop people in their tracks as they walk down the sidewalk, and are a great option if your neighborhood has a problem with sign stealers. (grrrr)
Please note that if you live in an area where you do not feel safe posting non-partisan statements that are unfortunately seen as partisan by some, a simple “VOTE” In colorful letters can still be very effective and powerful.
And hey, kids can even decorate their Animal Crossing islands with Biden signs and you never know which other adults of voting age they may reach.
Volunteer for a local campaign
Though the presidential election gets the majority of the news coverage this year, remember that every corner of the country has candidates running for various offices down the ticket, or has big issues that will be decided at the polls.
Let your teen choose a local campaign that interests them and offer their time and support. Youth Services America has some helpful information and links for teens interested in volunteering. From preparing mailings, to making phone calls, and holding signs on busy street corners, many campaigns will happily welcome the help from reliable and enthusiastic teens. Especially lower profile races.
Sweeten up reluctant voters…legally!
My 17-year-old likes to bake cupcakes for her co-workers at her job, but I love the inspiration from these no-bake “Vote” cookies from Finding Debra. It’s a great way for teens to work their way into hearts of reluctant voters through their stomachs.
Or hey, Host a bake sell and lemonade stand if it’s allowed in your community, to raise money for issues and activist organizations they care about. While election contributions can be tricky, anyone can donate to the Nature Conservancy, for example, or the Human Rights Campaign or the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.
Use social media to amplify important messages
Photo: Amanda Vick on Unsplash
You know what huge platforms TikTok and Instagram are for Gen Z, especially during this heated election season. Creative kids may like making videos or creative posts that encourage their older peers to exercise their right to vote — especially if they know that only about half of adults 18-29 vote in bigger elections. In this case, a little peer pressure is a good thing if it means that percentage will go up.
And hey, it’s always easy to amplify the messages that are already out there by resharing them, if they don’t know what to say themselves.
Related: Get (temporarily) inked to vote.
Talk to an older relative
If your teen is a great communicator, it’s a wonderful idea for them to call an older relative they love and talk to them about the issues that are important to them. Maybe they worry that pollution will cripple our oceans if we do not make big changes to our consumption habits. Maybe they are afraid that same sex marriage will be outlawed by the time they are ready to get married. Or maybe they are unhappy with the country’s immigration policy which may have affected your own family if they were emigrating here today.
Kids can be incredibly impactful in this regard, and often it just takes hearing from a person you care about, especially a cherished grandchild or niece, to help you see things differently. Candidates and politicians evolve, and so can voters.
(Please note that this will not work with every family and you may want to guide your teen through the process…or aftermath if things don’t go the way they hope.)
Work the polls, if your state allows
Photo Element5 Digital
Finally, depending on your state and municipalities’ rules, teens as young as 16 may be eligible to volunteer as poll workers through organizations like Power the Polls. It’s a fantastic way for teens to get involved, up close, on Election Day — or sooner, considering early voting is already happening in some states.
Bonus: For some teens, this can also count toward community service hours they may need for graduation.
Most importantly, volunteering for the polls really gets them into the thick of things on the most important political day of the year, and should insure that they will be ready and committed to vote themselves when they turn 18.
Because trust me, those politically-minded teens who can’t vote in 2020 will be good and ready to have their voices heard at the ballot box just as soon as they can.