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How To Get Young People To Vote: A Complete Guide With Tools

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Published: Feb 29, 2024

How to get young people to vote?

This question has plagued many election campaigns. 

With 2024 promising more than 8 million new voters in the Presidential elections, it is clear that parties would strive to reach this new generation and seek support, considering how divisive and narrow election races are getting each year.

Let’s explore challenges to youth participation in elections and how to get young people to vote and participate in their democratic rights.

What are the recent trends in young voter participation?

To begin with, let’s take a look at some noteworthy trends in youth participation in voting. They are:

  • Voter turnout has increased from 13% in 2014 to 23% in 2022.
  • Education and other demographic factors still affect voter turnout.
  • Youth voter turnout is affected by party affiliation.

We explore these in detail.

Voter turnout is increasing year-on-year.

Historically, young voters aged 18-29, who represent 22% of the voting-age population in the United States, have had the lowest voter turnout rates. While 2018 showed a record-high voter turnout among youth (28%) – election turnout in 2022 dipped to 23%.

However, all is not grim since youth participation has doubled since the previous decade, as voter turnout in 2014 was a meager 13%. 

Voter turnout in young groups over the years has more than doubled, most like because:

  • Young voters are experiencing a more divisive political atmosphere.
  • Social media is creating more awareness about issues first-time voters care about.

Apart from these, current trends suggest 

  1. 57% of youth are highly likely to vote in upcoming elections, with an additional 15% claiming they are likely to vote.
  2. Climate change is among the top issues these voters are most concerned about.
  3. Less than 1 in 5 young voters have heard from a political campaign persuading them to vote.

Education and other demographic factors affect youth voter turnout.

Factors such as education, race, ethnicity, and income group affect voter turnout among first-time voters.

Studies suggest that Hispanic populations, Asian Americans, and African-American populations continue to be underrepresented in the voting process- even in youth groups.

Also, the more educated a young voter is, the more likely they are to vote. A college-educated voter is more likely to vote than someone who has a high school education.

how-young-people-vote-turnout-education

Source: socialstudies.org

Youth voter turnout by party affiliation

Young voters prefer to vote for the Democratic party over the Republican party. Over the years, there has been a growing influence of left-leaning, progressive politics on the younger generation. 

However, this is not to say that Democrats are necessarily reaching young voters more than the Republicans. Both parties are aware of the power of the swing young voters can bring in during competitive elections.

Why young people don’t vote: Challenges

Are young people apathetic about the state of their country and politics? The answer would be no. 

80% of young voters say they are interested in politics and plan to vote – however, the same numbers still need to be reflected in voter turnout.

Before we ask ourselves why and “How to get young people to vote this year?” let’s explore the challenges keeping them out of the election process.

A complicated voting process

For a new voter to vote in the U.S elections, they need to go through two processes: 

  • Register themselves to vote.
  • Vote on the day of the polls.

The process and requirements to register to vote vary for different states, and keeping track of these can be difficult. Registration dates, timelines, and requirements change from state to state, and it takes work to keep up with these changes. 

Also, young voters must re-register to vote if they move to a different state. At an age when most are continuously moving to universities or different cities for work, this can be a real cost on time.

These restrictive policies and registration processes actively discourage youth participation in politics and force us to think of better ways on how to get young people to vote.

Lack of information about voting

One-third of youth don’t know if their states have online registration for voting. 75% of them need more information about voting by mail. 

This unavailability of resources and information about voting is a leading cause for young, inexperienced voters’ lack of participation. Along with a general need for awareness about the voting process, young voters must be better informed about candidates or their stance on issues.

No flexibility and a high cost of voting

As Americans, when we think about how to get young people to vote, we must also look into structural challenges that prevent the youth from voting.

Election days are not official holidays, and for young people struggling with new jobs, temporary housing situations, and less financial ability to take the day off – voting comes at a cost.

Spending a few hours at the polling station seems less appealing compared to keeping their jobs and pay for the day. 

Lack of contact

Political parties are less likely to contact young voters without a previous voting history. Often, young voters are considered unreliable, making it difficult for parties to place their bets on their votes.

Studies show that 46% of voters aged 18-29 have never been contacted by any political campaign before elections.

Voting requires habit formation.

Yale Political Scientists Alan S. Gerber, Donald P. Green, and Ron Shachar found that voting is a habit-forming exercise. Their study means that the more opportunities you have to vote, the more likely you are to vote.

These findings could be one reason why young people do not turn out to vote as frequently as older generations. As time goes by, people are influenced by their friends and family’s choices to cast a vote and are encouraged to do the same.

Youth prefer other ways to make a difference.

While voter turnout is one way to engage in making society better, it is not the only way. In terms of political action, voter turnout is critical. However, young people are finding different ways to uplift their communities.

Many cite disillusionment with the current political climate for choosing volunteering over voting.

It could be through fundraisers, volunteering in their communities, or hosting bake sales – young people are finding more meaningful ways than one to engage.

With these challenges to getting young people to vote, it is essential to take steps to bring them back into civic participation and educate them on why it is necessary to vote. 

How to get young people to vote: What are the states doing?

In recent years, many states have adopted policies to boost young voter turnout. Senator Elizabeth Warren also re-introduced the Youth Voting Right Act to encourage young people to vote.

“This bill will ensure young people aren’t left out of the voting process and allow them to have a say in their own future,” says Senator Warren.

Let’s take a look at some policies and reforms states are introducing to encourage young voters, such as:

  • Automatic voter registration
  • Pre-registration of voters
  • Online registration

Automatic voter registration

With automatic voter registration, voters are automatically registered to vote whenever they interact with a government agency such as the Department of Motor Vehicles. Voters can request not to be automatically registered if they so wish.

how-young-people-vote-automatic-voter-registration

Automatic voter registration across states. Source: lgbtmap.org

Pre-registration of voters

Another initiative gaining popularity is the pre-registration of voters before they turn 18 years of age. While they can vote only when they turn 18 years old, pre-registration can begin at age 16 or 17.

This ensures voters are reached at a young age and prepared over the years to participate in the democratic process.

California, for example, encourages teens aged 16 and 17 to pre-register to vote.

how-young-people-vote-preregistration

States that allow voter preregistration. Source: mapresearch.org 

Online registration

In a digitally connected generation, online voter registration is crucial for accessibility and ease of process.

Therefore, many states have begun encouraging online voter registration to entice young voters to participate. Online voter registration is:

  • Accessible: Anyone can register to vote no matter where they are situated.
  • Cost-efficient: No missing days of work trying to figure out how to register to vote.
  • Great for increasing registration and voter turnout: South Dakota saw an increase of 500% in voter registration after making it available online.
how-young-people-vote-online-voter-registration

Source: naacpldf.org

Campaign efforts: How to get young people to vote?

Apart from initiatives by states, there are measures that campaigns can take to sway young voters 18 years of age and above in their favor. They are:

  • Education and preparation
  • Reach them early
  • Conduct registration drives early on
  • Engage in relational organizing
  • Use channels that your youth is on
  • Stay in contact with young voters
  • Talk about issues they care about

Education and preparation

Campaigns can focus on educating and preparing young voters from their teens to when they are ready to vote.

Many campaigns run voter awareness movements through phonebanking, texting surveys, and door-knocking outreach. 

The focus of these education initiatives is to:

  1. Ensure voters know how the voter registration process works.
  2. Help young voters facing difficulties registering.
  3. Guide voters to vote by mail-in ballots.
  4. Help voters build a voting plan to ensure they know what to expect.
  5. Aid voters in traveling to local voting booths.

Reach them early 

Many initiatives, like Girls In Politics, encourage youth participation in politics. Right from a young age, they educate individuals about running for office and the electoral process.

Reaching out to impressionable minds about the importance of voting can build the habit of civic engagement.

Conduct registration drives early on.

Begin voter registration drives at the early stages of a campaign to ensure no voters are left behind.

Considering young voters have many factors to deal with – university, new job, relocation, and more – reaching them early is wise.

Engage in relational organizing

The human mind is most influenced by people around us and their habits, mannerisms, thought processes, and actions. When a young voter looks at their peers and family members volunteering for campaigns, actively participating in the democratic process, and engaging with politics – they are more likely to begin taking an interest in it too.

One of the best ways to influence young voters is to mobilize youth volunteers and campaign members to reach out to their networks through relational organizing. Relational organizing taps into the personal networks of volunteers and campaign members to reach audiences of similar demographics and mindsets.Young volunteers are in the best position to reach out to people of the same age and talk to them about voting, voter registration, and the importance of exercising their democratic rights. They can be a campaign’s best bet to reach younger voter bases.

Use channels that the youth are on

While door-knocking and calling are personal outreach methods, the youth do not appreciate them.

In fact, Gen-Z and millennials prefer texts over a call, and some even claim they would not answer the door if they were not expecting someone, giving rise to some popular memes:

how-young-people-vote-door-knocking

47% of young people heard about or participated in the 2018 election news cycle through social media platforms.

Some popular channels where campaigns can reach young voters include:

  1. Text messages
  2. Social media such as Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, and TikTok (here’s an easter egg for you)

Stay in contact with young voters.

Most young voters report that campaigns have never contacted them to vote.

A continual outreach strategy targeted toward young voters is essential to sway them. As first-time voters, they would appreciate campaigns that try to connect with their group, hear their concerns, and work on issues that affect them.

Talk about issues they care about

While foreign policy issues may be necessary, the youth face larger, more immediate crises. These issues include unemployment, the rising cost of living, high rental prices, student loans, climate change, gun violence, and more.

Working on these issues and including them as part of your election campaign strategy goes a long way to answer the question, “How to get young people to vote for me?”

Youth voter outreach through CallHub

If you are ready to reach out to your young voter base – we have the right tools for you. Use CallHub’s texting tools to reach out to the youth at the one place they are guaranteed to pay attention to – their mobile phones.

With CallHub’s texting tools, you can:

  • Reach thousands of contacts swiftly.
  • Share GIFs, memes, videos, images, and other media through MMS.
  • Engage in two-way conversations with the youth to understand their concerns or help them make a voting plan.
  • Share links and other information, conduct surveys and get them to answer polls quickly.
  • Sign up today to begin youth outreach and get a 14-day free trial! 

Featured Image Source: Edmond Dantès

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