Courtesy Alliance for Youth Action

Civics in Action
August 2020

Ways to Get Involved in the 2020 Election (Even If You Can’t Vote)

 

 

By Laura Anastasia

November 3 is going to be a big day! Americans will elect the people who will run our cities, states, and country for the next few years. Those leaders’ decisions could change your life. Will your school get more money? Will your town get new jobs? The answers may depend on our new leaders. 

You can’t vote yet, but you have power too. Here’s how you can be part of the election. (The best part? You may not even need to get out of your pj’s!)

Here’s what’s happening on November 3: The people who are going to make decisions that could alter the course of your life will be elected. Will your rights be protected? Will you be able to afford college? Will more jobs come to your community? The answers to these questions, and many more, may depend on the government officials who are put in place to serve you. 

You may not be able to vote to elect these people, but guess what? You have power too. Here’s how you can take an active role in the upcoming local, state, and federal elections—and politics in general—no matter your age. (The best part? You may not even need to get out of your pj’s!) 

1) Get informed.

The first thing you need to do is learn a little bit about what will be decided on Election Day. You can start by reading about each of the candidates for president. These candidates have different views on the issues that matter to voters—things like education, healthcare, and national safety. There are also many other races that will decide who becomes members of Congress, governors, mayors, and others. To learn more, ask your parents about the races in your city and state and which issues matter to them.


2) Make sure your family votes.

It’s important for people to vote to make their voices heard. Yet many people in the U.S. don’t cast ballots. Encourage your parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and other family members to vote by asking them about their plans for Election Day. Will they vote? Where will they vote? Have they marked the day on their calendars? If they have a plan, they’re much more likely to make it to the polls!

1) Get informed.

Find out who is running in your local, state, and national elections—and what those candidates stand for—at Ballotpedia.org and vote411.org. Compare the presidential candidates’ views at ProCon.org . And visit VoteSmart.org to read about ballot measures—proposed changes to your state’s constitution—being decided on Election Day. (All four of these sites are nonpartisan, which means they do not side with any political party.)


2) Volunteer for a campaign. 

Visit your favorite candidate’s website to explore ways you can pitch in. Campaigns need help contacting potential voters, often through phone calls, letters, and texts. Identifying supporters now makes it easier for candidates to remind those people to vote on Election Day. Plus, you’ll get an inside look at the campaign process—and that’s good practice if you decide to run for office one day.


3) Write to your local paper.

Use your knowledge about the candidates and the issues to teach or try to persuade others. Write an editorial for your school newspaper or submit a letter to the editor of your local paper. You can also start a blog to share your election thoughts.


4) Ensure that your family and friends vote.

Research has shown that people are more likely to cast ballots if they plan in advance, so make sure your family and older friends are ready to head to the polls. First, ask them if they’re registered, and if not, encourage them to apply at vote411.org or vote.gov. Then, make sure they know where to vote. (They can find their polling places at vote411.org.) Last, make sure they remember to vote. Urge them to fill out a voter’s pledge, such as at nationalpledgetovote.org, that will send them reminders about Election Day.


5) Start a petition.

The First Amendment gives us the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances. That’s a fancy way of saying that we can tell the government if we don’t like what it is doing. Is there something you want changed? Go for it! Anyone 13 or older can create a petition at petitions.whitehouse.gov. Clearly state your goal and what you think the government should do to achieve it—and then share your petition with as many people as you can. If you get enough signatures in 30 days, you are guaranteed a response from the White House.


6) Champion a cause.

Want more support for homeless teens? Think plastic bags should be banned? Pick an issue you are passionate about. Then do research to find an organization that is addressing the problem in a way you agree with. Finally, find out how you can help—such as by organizing a fundraiser, participating in a Twitter campaign, or writing letters to news outlets. Check out opportunities and ideas at the Points of Light Institute (pointsoflight.org), Youth Volunteer Corps (yvc.org), and DoSomething.org.

3) Write to an elected official.

Is there a cause you care about? Maybe you want your town to ban plastic bags because they’re bad for the environment. Maybe you just want someone to fix the basketball hoops at your local park. Whatever it is, you can write a letter to your town council or other elected officials. Start your letter by explaining who you are and describing the change you would like to see. Then give at least three good reasons you think the change should be made. Hearing from community members can affect leaders’ decisions!


4) Keep the election on people’s minds!

Make election signs for your front yard. Wear a T-shirt with your favorite candidate on it. Record videos about why voting matters. Seeing how much you care can inspire others to get involved.



7) Bust election myths on social media.

Sort fact from fiction on social media—especially before sharing shocking election “news.” News stories should be free of opinions and present both sides of a controversial topic. They should also support claims with trustworthy sources (think government experts, university professors). If you discover something is false, share the truth instead, including facts and sources to back up your post. (To learn more, watch our video about vetting online articles.)


8) Call or write to elected officials.

Tell local, state, and federal leaders how you feel about important issues through phone calls, letters, or emails—especially if those leaders are up for reelection. (Find contact info at usa.gov/elected-officials.) Not sure what to say? Start with: “I strongly support/oppose . . .” If enough voters contact an official, they can affect his or her decisions. Follow when and how your representative votes on issues you care about at issuevoter.org.


9) Talk politics—nicely!

Discussing the issues facing our country can broaden your perspective, especially if you talk with family and friends who have different viewpoints. But be sure to keep the conversations respectful. Here’s how: Try to speak face-to-face or over the phone, rather than over social media. Ask questions about what the other person thinks, instead of just making statements about what you believe. And aim to understand the other person’s point of view and find common ground, rather than trying to persuade him or her to switch sides. 


10) Throw a debate-watching party. 

Invite friends and family members to watch a debate with you in person or by video chat. (Candidates for president and vice president debate in prime time, but you may need to check local TV and radio stations for state and local candidate debates.) Set the mood by serving red-white-and-blue treats, then compare notes as you watch. Ask: What do you think of the debate format? What questions would you ask? Which ideas do you agree/disagree with? 


11) Hold a fund-raiser.

A donation of money—even $5—can help support your favorite cause or candidate. Earn cash by selling toys you don’t want anymore, doing yard work for neighbors, or taking on extra chores at home. You can even start an online fundraiser. Be sure to explain what you are raising money for and why the cause is important to you.


12) Keep the election on people’s minds.

Make election signs for your front yard, post voter registration reminders on social media, or sport a T-shirt promoting your presidential pick. You can also make and share videos about why voting is important and why this election matters. Seeing how much you care about the election can inspire others to take part.


13) Get involved with local politics.

The decisions made by your local government officials can affect your daily life, so pay attention! The city council might be deciding whether to fund a new skate park, or the school board might be voting on changes to the school dress code. Attend public meetings to stay informed—either in person or virtually. (Check your town website for meeting dates.) Some public meetings include time for audience members to speak, so ask questions and share your thoughts.