Turning Teens into Voters

Friday, October 16, 2020
Kari Suva

[PORTLAND, ME] – Volunteers from the League of Women Voters of Maine (LWVME) are working with the newest and youngest of voters: high school students.

In 2018, 71% of 18-29-year olds were registered to vote in Maine, an encouraging number, and one of the highest in the country. The bad news is that only 36% of 18-29-year olds* actually went to the polls and voted.

The League’s High School Engagement team is working to change that and encourage Generation Z to vote by building relationships with high schools and youth organizations throughout Maine. The project team is enlisting their help to Get Out the Vote (GOTV). The project team also supports the efforts of these organizations to provide civic education, specifically around voter engagement. 

The centerpiece of the team’s work has been to build a network of engaged students themselves, as they are in the best position to reach and influence their peers.

“The earlier young people get involved in voting and civic engagement, the more likely it is they will be lifelong voters. I am also very excited at the prospect that organizations similar, and including [ours], are enabling the youth voice,” said Vivian Burnham, a senior at Marshwood High School in South Berwick.

One way high school students can get involved is to join the League’s Youth Council. Council members participate in a variety of activities to GOTV among their peer group as well as take on leadership roles in determining how best to engage youth to become lifetime voters and participate in other activities that strengthen our democracy. 

Aside from the satisfaction of helping GOTV among their peers, members learn leadership skills and gain volunteer experience that can be helpful when applying to college or for a job.

“By involving youth in GOTV, it enables us to spread this message amongst our peers and helps us gather and disseminate such information to our generation in ways only we can. By using peer outreach as a bridge to civic awareness it will create a more informed and excited group of upcoming voters,” added Burnham, who is also a member of the Youth Council Steering Committee.

Volunteer activities include: utilizing a text-based tool to reach their peers, participating in a speakers bureau, doing a social media campaign, becoming poll workers and more. For more details, see the Youth Council volunteer packet.

Note: We have a number of high school students that can be interviewed for this story.

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The League of Women Voters of Maine is a nonpartisan political organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. We never support or oppose any political party or candidate.

*Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University is the leading source of authoritative research on the civic and political engagement of young Americans through CIRCLE. The Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE) focuses on the political life of young people in the United States, especially those who are marginalized or disadvantaged. CIRCLE’s scholarly research informs policy and practice for healthier youth development and a better democracy.