The program that brought me to Seattle Works enabled me to go to some great talks this past week. With the election season coming up, and our first elections committee meeting tonight, getting to listen to Thomas Bates, the Vice President for civic engagement at Rock the Vote, was a real treat!
Rock the Vote is the largest voter registration organization in the country, which uses music, pop culture and experimental techniques to encourage young people to register to vote. The 2008 general election had the largest voter turnout for young people since 1972; a great result given that even slight increases in turnout lead to exponential results in terms of impact, due to large population numbers. But how do you keep those of the Millennial Generation engaged when it is not election season? This is where Rock the Vote works hard to help re-registering people to their new homes (did you know that by 2012 over half of those who voted in 2008 will have moved to a different state, and need to re-register?!). Rock the Vote also uses various media outlets and celebrity endorsements to keep young people interested.
The other problem facing young people trying to vote is that some states have strict photo ID laws, which often isolates certain demographics. For example, we often assume that everyone has a driving license, which would enable them to vote, but we forget that this can exclude young people, old people, minorities, and those from low-income homes. This is where Rock the Vote petitions to stop this voter suppression, and try to increase online voting and same-day voting to make it as easy as possible to cast your ballot.
But even the clouds in Washington have a silver lining! Washington State actually ranked first in a national poll comparing how easy it is to vote in the state, which is largely attributed to high school civics programs. Nevertheless, our score was a 68% (in real terms the equivalent of a D-), and the national average was 41% (a definite failing grade). There is definite room for improvement, and here are 3 easy ways to help:
1. REGISTER TO VOTE! It’s easy to register online through national and local voter organizations such as Rock the Vote, or the Washington Bus. Rock the Vote can help anyone sign-up. The Washington Bus works especially with the state of Washington, and also holds fun events throughout the year. Check out their websites and sign-up today! http://www.rockthevote.org/ or http://washingtonbus.org/get-on-the-bus/register-to-vote
2. TELL YOUR FRIENDS! Research suggests that people are more likely to vote if their friends are voting – so start pestering your friends!
3. STAY POSTED! Look out for some great elections events coming up through Seattle Works in the next few months! Bring friends, have fun, and get excited! Feel free to read up on our past elections events here: http://www.seattleworks.org/AboutUs/index.php/elections/intro.html