Making Young Voters

Four out of five young Americans won’t vote for Election 2018.

 But one survey shows how we can change it.

 

3 Things You will Know from This Post:

~ Young Americans need to vote, because most of them don’t.

~ We surveyed 245 high schools in NC to see how they promote students to vote

~ What could be done to make more young voters? Registration Drive.

 

In November 6, 2018, the United States of America is going to have the next midterm election. But do you know that for the last midterm election in 2014, only 18% of the young people turned out to vote? It meant that for every 5 eligible young Americans age 18-29, only one of us showed up in the poll. Here’s how we will fix it!

 

Welcome to our project: Making Young Voters.

 

Compared to peer countries, the age gap is much larger in US. it means making young voters is crucial for this country’s future.

‍The grey solid lines plot voter turnout among citizens 18-29 years old and among those 60 years and older. The thick solid line plots the gap between the two groups.

 

 

Voter turnout among young Americans is dismal– typically 20-30 percentage points lower than among older citizens.

 

The low youth turnout is really problematic.

 

If the goal of the elections is to have a representative vote among entire population for policy making, and our largest demographic--age 18-29, are consistently disproportionately unrepresented at the poll, then we are left with an inadequate foundation for identifying policy solutions.

 

Research shows that this inadequacy may not reflect lack of civic mindedness or engagement. Rather, it may be the consequence of a combination of institutional and motivational obstacles that get in the way of people participating in politics.

 

So what’s to be done? 

Our Professor Dr Sunshine Hillygus has this theory: voting is a habitual thing. It can be nurtured, especially before a voter reach the age 18. If a high school student takes more civics education courses, participate in voting for the student government, and is registered to vote by the registration drives and pre-registration drives in school, he/she would be more likely to actually turn out in the real voting poll.

 

Survey

Our first step was to figure out what the current status is. So we conducted a survey of the principles of 571 public and chartered high schools in North Carolina. 42% of them (n=245) responded. We can see from the map that the respondents are pretty representative geographically across the state.

Who registered students to vote?

Registration drives in theory has a big impact to make more young voters. And the NC state law requires registration form to be made available for the student. However, in our survey, only 39% of the schools offered registration drives in 2016.

 

Did hot purple regions get more attention ?

We overlaid the survey map on the result of 2016 presidential election. North Carolina was a swing state in 2016 and Trump defeated Hillary. We can see that for the more contentious counties (the color gets less red/blue), there seemed to be more schools offering registration drives. For example, the NC Research Triangle area, where Duke and UNC were at, had a lot of yellow dots.

 

Civic Educations Offered?

High school courses with a significant civic component educate the students about their rights and responsibility as US citizens. Yet, most NC schools did not offer civics/government courses beside the Civics and Economics requirement.

It means that 1 out of 2 kids graduated from NC is left taking sufficient Civic education.

What did Teachers Say?

We also interviewed a dozen high school teachers on the view on voting of their students. Among the key words, Duty, Citizenship, and Democracy were especially salient.

 

Actions: What Will We Do?

 

Why do we need registration drive?

Registration Drive means that state or NGO representatives go to high schools and ask students to fill out informations to register to vote. If a student is going to be at least 16 but not 18 during the election day, he can fill out the same form and “pre-register”.

 

Behavior economics says that if a person say “yes” to something, he is more likely to carry out the promise. Thus, we hope to make as many students as possible to say “yes” to voting, on paper. And when the Nov. 6 finally comes, this promise would make harder for them to break.

 

In the next few months, the state reps will go to the Wake County public high schools with the registration forms. We chose to host the registration drives during English classes become they are course that everyone has to take. During the 45 min course session, we will also give the high schoolers a crash course on the importance of voting, which we designed.

 

In the End:

After the mass high school shooting in Parkland, Southern Florida early this year, we saw angry students marching to the nation’s capital to demand justice and legislative reforms. Young people like us care. And we want a voice in the nation’s policy making. For too long, this voice has been subdued due to the low voting turnout. As a Chinese citizen, I know the price that people paid to earn that voice, and envied my American friends for this easy channel to express their voice. Please vote in Nov 6, because you care, because we care.

 

To learn more:

Our official website: https://sites.duke.edu/makingyoungvoters/