Political Participation by Youth

In the 2014 election, California showed a record low voter turnout around the state. One of the most worrying numbers? The number of eligible young voters (18-24 years old) that participated: just over 8 percent. This kind of data begs the question…where are the young voters at?

While older generations have a lot of ideas on this topic, we decided to go directly to the source, asking juniors and seniors in California to consider: Why is youth voter turnout so low? Are there changes we can make to help increase political participation among young people? Our statewide essay contest brought in an overwhelming response, with a ton of great ideas.

Since the Iowa caucuses are today, and the 2016 election is really gearing up, we thought…what better time to announce our winners and share their great ideas on getting young people more involved! (PS – scroll to the bottom of the post for resources that will help you better understand the 2016 candidates, issues and what the Iowa caucuses are all about)

WINNERS (in alphabetical order)

  • Ulises Bucio, Kearny School of International Business
  • Amber Carrington, El Segundo High School
  • Shelby Dill, Brawley Union High School
  • Cameron Elliott, Valhalla High School
  • Matthew Forbes, Westlake High School
  • Crystal Huang, Oakland High School
  • Katie La Costa, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
  • Tania Marmolejo, Bonita Vista High School
  • Ana Paola Rubio, Academy of Our Lady of Peace
  • Trevor Swafford, Bonita Vista High School

We will unveil two winners’ ideas every day this week, so be sure to check back to see all of their work!

Ulises Bucio, Kearny School of International Business
Ulises came up with a lot of great ideas that would help increase how many young people participate in elections. He suggested a two-pronged approach: 1) make voting more accessible by lowering the voting age and allowing students to vote in class 2) help students become more informed by teaching them not just about the mechanics of government, but the politics behind it. In fact, Ulises suggests dedicating more than a semester to government, and urges our state leaders to consider having a separate class dedicated to politics. He makes an eloquent point when discussing how most schools offer only one semester of government: “If school does not place emphasis on it, why should we?”

Amber Carrington, El Segundo High School
Amber offered some interesting insight into why so many students may not vote. First, she notes that many of her peers have a limited attention span – particularly when it comes to politics. When candidates do not make themselves relevant to young people, young people do not take the time to listen. Secondly, young people are experiencing drastic changes in their life when they turn 18, including completing high school, attending college, finding a job, and paying rent. With all these new and sometimes challenging experiences, young people have little time to research the candidates or the issues. As Amber notes, “perhaps less of my peers vote because they don’t feel prepared to make an educated, smart decision.” So how do you overcome these challenges? Amber suggests making elections relevant by bringing in elected officials to talk to students, having debates, or carrying out a mock election in schools. According to Amber, “If you want us to vote, it’s simple: educate us about the issues and nominate candidates that are relevant, accessible, concise and care about the issues we care about.”

Teaching Resources
So, to Amber’s suggestion, please find here a few resources that help break down the 2016 election, candidates, and the Iowa caucuses in a simple (and concise) way!

Video Guide: What’s a Caucus and How is it Different Than a Primary? from KQED’s The Lowdown

Skimm The Vote 2016 from The Skimm

The Big Issues of the 2016 Presidential Election and Where the Candidates Stand from KQED’s The Lowdown

 

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