by:  Vallery Kountze

As parents, aunts and uncles, extended family members or simply friends of any young person in our lives, one of the most important contributions to the success and well being of this next generation that we can bestow, is a blueprint for activism and the gift of empowerment.  And right now, there’s nothing more urgent on that front than instilling a commitment to voting.
Like every rite of passage in a person’s life, voting - and all that comes with it - takes guidance and sometimes ‘a village’ to make it happen.  So, as just one of our culture’s most beloved sayings goes, let “each one teach one”  and help ensure that the young adults in your life participate in shaping their future by turning out at the polls this November.
Here are a few steps and suggestions to get the ball rolling:
·      Casually kick off a conversation with younger people by asking what current issues matter to them most right now.  Are they supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement?  What are their concerns about police misconduct, no knock warrants, reporting and liability?  How do they feel about the U.S. response to Covid-19, the economy, race and violence, selecting the next supreme court nominee.
·      Do they know the issues surrounding climate change, preserving a woman’s right to choose, and/or increasing the minimum wage?  Are they concerned about the high cost of education and student loans; preserving access to healthcare; or immigration? Do they know what the presidential candidates’ positions are?
·      If you find that your young person is interested in changing the circumstances that directly affect the lives of Black people in this country, be sure to turn them on to Color of Change is the nation’s largest online social and racial justice organization dedicated to “creating a more human and less hostile world for Black people in America”.
·      With these things in mind, the moment has come to ask if your young person is of age, registered and planning to vote.  No need to ask ‘who’ they’re voting for, but congratulations are definitely in order if you learn that they’re definitely heading to the polls on November 3rd!
·      If you find that registration is the next step, offer to help make that happen or point out that it will take less than 5 minutes online by logging on to no matter what state you live in.  Registration deadlines do vary from state to state but the Common Cause website will alert you to those deadlines on a case by case basis.
·      If you find that the young person in question is not planning to vote, the next step is to encourage them to re-think their position by engaging in a discussion that will hopefully persuade them to take every opportunity they can to stand up, be heard and to vote in the interest of protecting their rights, their choices, the people they love and the issues that they care about.
Bear in mind that, depending on their age, many young people are not tuned in to news or politics on a daily basis.  As a result, a lack of familiarity with the candidates and the issues could easily undermine a person’s confidence and inclination to vote at all.  If you suspect this is the case:
·      Offer to share your own thoughts on the candidates and the most important measures and referendums on the ballot, and to provide the web addresses for nonpartisan voter information sources such as the leading local newspapers that generally always offer Voting Guides.  Voting Guides can provide very handy summaries of the pros and cons of each issue and each candidate’s positions along with that publication’s own endorsements and the rationale for each one.   

·      Do a search and forward interesting online articles and video content on the issues that both engage and inform.  is a great resource that’s designed specifically to introduce young people to the voting process. But, be prepared to hear something along the lines of “my vote doesn’t matter” or “I don’t like any of the choices, so I’m just going to sit this one out”.  Statements like those provide a perfect opportunity to drop an indisputable truth: that millionaires and billionaires can throw all the money in the world toward influencing an election, but in the end, the great equalizer lies in the fact that, “Your one vote is every bit as powerful as theirs.  So, please don’t ever sell yourself short on the power you have.”  
This is an excellent moment to underscore the decades of impact that the next president will have in appointing Supreme Court justices with the power to dictate laws that will directly affect them and their loved ones for generations to come.
·      Consider organizing or hosting virtual Debate Watch parties that help make the political dialogue and the process of participation far more social and fun, particularly for those that are new to this very important chapter of life.
·      And lastly, do consider putting together a ‘Phone Tree’ wherein friends and family volunteer to divvy up and call every member of your growing tribe on November 3rd to ensure everyone has either mailed their mail-in ballot or has a ride to their polling place.
In the end, there’s nothing like crossing the finish line together in victory!

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