8 Ways You Can Make a Difference in the Election—Even if You Can't Vote
Soon-to-be voters, all eyes are on you in the run-up to 2020. By all accounts, it's young people who could really change election outcomes this year. Why? You're as adept at text campaigns as you are with social media—and, let's face it—you've got the stamina to stick out long election cycles. Use these tips to get involved:
Boost voter registration
Some states allow 16- or 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote so they can hit the ground running on Election Day. But even if you can't vote yet, you can help others register—and a few organizations hold events where participating in the election feels like a giant party.
- Headcount works with young-voter advocacy groups such as Rock the Vote to raise awareness about the importance of voting. Their events feature politically minded artists and musicians all committed to the cause. You can volunteer to work an event or just go and enjoy the music (in the name of democracy, of course).
- You can also check out My School Votes if you want to help guide students, staff, and parents in your school community to register to vote.
Drive folks to the polls
On Election Day, many people aren't able to easily access their polling places due to disabilities, age, or a lack of transportation.
- If you have wheels and want to help, sign up at Carpool Vote, which will match you with riders in your area.
- And here's a map from AARP that lists volunteer organizations that help transport elderly folks in every state.
Amplify issues that matter to you
Whether it's climate change or trade deficits, you can have a voice in issues that are important to you. Using social media is the most obvious way to elevate issues you care about. You could follow the example of Joshua Collins and Solomon Rajput, Congressional candidates in their 20s who use TikTok to appeal to potential supporters. Most political advisers recommend being more strategic, though, and for that, tried-and-true techniques are invaluable.
- Use The Campaign Workshop's ebooks to learn how to use LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, and other social media most effectively. A few top tips:
- Be active! It'll be hard to garner any attention or audience if your account is dormant.
- Use trending hashtags (but not more than two in any given tweet).
- Post relevant and up-to-date content—and if you're not sure, check the date.
- Use Instagram's polling feature to spur conversations (which really broadens your reach).
Work for local campaigns
With so much money and attention being poured into national campaigns, sometimes it's easy to overlook what's happening right in your town or state. If you want to get involved, volunteer and intern opportunities can be more accessible than more competitive national positions.
- The National Conference of State Legislatures provides a list of internship programs.
- The National League of Cities offers lots of ways for those shy of their 18th birthday to get involved in local politics, including how to hold a youth summit, start a youth council, or become a youth delegate. Download the Youth Engagement Resources for Cities Toolkit to learn how to work with local elected officials.
- The nonprofit Youth Service America shows you how to start (and follow through on) service projects in your community.
Nudge your teachers
While there are some hot-button political issues that your teachers or professors might not feel comfortable discussing in class (abortion, gun control), there's no reason why you can't encourage your teachers to plan for classroom discussions and activities about candidates, issues, and civic participation. Consider approaching the teachers you have a positive relationship with and talk to them about why you think you should devote class time to discussing issues and candidates.
- The resources offered by the Teaching for Democracy Alliance (a project of Tufts University's Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement) make it easy for time-starved educators to incorporate political issues into their lessons.
- The lesson-planning materials at Common Sense Education include class discussion ideas, videos, handouts, and more on news literacy (an essential skill for determining credible information) that you can refer your teacher to.
Text with purpose
It takes a village to get out the vote, and one way campaigns do this is through calling, writing, or texting potential voters. Texting, in particular, has gained a lot of traction in recent years as a low-cost method to reach voters in far-flung places, many of whom don't even have a landline. And really, what's easier?
- Democrats, sign up for Text Out the Vote.
- Republicans, volunteer through the Republican National Committee.
Join a phone bank
You can always support a candidate through old-fashioned personal telephone calls.
- If you lean progressive, check out Mobilize America to find phone banks and other events in your area.
- If you're more conservative, sign up through the GOP.
Run for office
Yes, you. If you really want to make a difference, step up. It might be too late to do it in 2020, but there are plenty more elections ahead. Several organizations offer training on running for office. Just to name a few:
- For female Democrats, Emerge.
- For female Republicans, Winning for Women.
- For African-Americans, the Black Campaign School.
- For Latinx, Latino Victory (progressive); Amplify Latinx (nonpartisan)
- For conservatives, Young Republicans.
For even more resources to help navigate election season, visit our Young Voter's Guide to Social Media and the News.