Get active in politics even before you’re old enough to vote!
“This is truly the moment that young people are going to make the difference in this country.”
That’s what Jaclyn Corin had to say after rallying together with fellow survivors of the Parkland school shooting to get her peers registered and out to the polls for the US midterm elections. For many of them, it was the first time they were able to vote. But for a lot of these students, their involvement as active voters began before they were voting age, so that when their 18th birthdays came they knew which politician best reflected their values. They knew who could help them change the world.
So if you’re under the age of 18, and feeling like you’re ready to become a more active voter, don’t let your age get in your way. There are three big ways you can get involved before your first voting day: Volunteer, Get Informed, and Register to Vote.
I Side With is customizable to your country, and will ask you questions about important political platform points. It is also great for providing further details about topics that you are not yet informed on, and has a platform for users to suggest answers with contingencies. Because a lot of times, the answers aren’t as simple as yes or no. It will also ask you how strongly you feel about the matter in question, and allow you to expand the amount of questions you answer so you can get as accurate as possible about which political party you may align with. Just make sure to select your country in the top right hand of the page!
Vote Compass has a more focused test, specific to the upcoming elections. It has a better breakdown for Canadian elections, and the quizzes range from Mayoral, Provincial, and Federal. Whereas with American elections, the only quizz it covers is the Presidential Election. On Vote Compass, you launch the quizz for your upcoming election, select your riding (which you can also look up by postal/zip code), and you’ll be given a breakdown of party leaders. From there, you take a quiz asking you similar questions to I Side With, that are ranked from strongly disagree to strongly agree. From your results, it will help you navigate which leader and which party you may align with!
These two sites are great if you are starting from scratch. They’ll help point you in the right direction, and aid you a little in refining your research on candidates. The next good step from here is to look into a politician’s platform: the breakdown of what they hope to achieve with their time in office, their stance on important issues, and promises they make to the voting public in the hope of being elected. Each official running for any type of office must post their platform for the public to easily access and review. If you don’t have as much time to research and do the reading, keep an eye out for debates! A lot of times, these important points will be touched on and you can get a general idea of whom you want to give your support to in the future!
It’s also a good idea to personally identify what issues are important to you (i.e. Gun Control, Marriage Equality Rights, Climate Change) and have an understanding of who can affect that change. For example: politicians at every level can have an impact on how we are managing climate change, whereas issues like health care are dealt with primarily on a provincial or federal level. So of course, it’s also important to have an understanding of the different types of elections, and what the people you are voting for will have the ability to do!
This is definitely the most active way to become involved in a political party before you’re 18, because you can start volunteering at just about any age! When elections come up, parties call for volunteers to help them door knock, cold call people asking for donations, and poll people about who they will vote for.
This is a super great chance to get to know that party’s platform on an intimate level, as there is often a lot of training and information provided to volunteers. Door knocking is an especially great way to chat one-on-one with prospective voters! You will essentially be sent door-to-door in the riding’s neighborhood to talk to people about the candidate you are volunteering for, share your passions, and get a sense of where your community falls on the political spectrum.
Volunteering is also a super great stepping stone if you hope to one day work in politics. You may have a chance to get some info on the inner workings of a campaign, meet politicians personally, and get your foot in the door. It looks great on college and university applications, and is a wonderful chance to encourage your peers to become active voters. You’ll be able to help register them to vote, and be a source of the information they might need when it comes time to vote!
Register to Vote
So you’ve done your research, you know when the next election is coming up, and you’re finally 18 (or will be by the time of the next election)! The most important step here is registering yourself to vote. All elections should have simple online portals that will help you register, let you know what kind of ID you will need to bring, and help you find your polling station.
These portals will also be able to help you in case you aren’t in town on voting day, or are super busy on voting day and can’t make it out to any polling stations. In these cases, you can have an absentee ballot mailed to you or participate in advanced voting!
There are so many options for teens out there, and voting is a huge way in which you can help make an impact. Electing politicians who represent your values and who will take positive action is how you can change the world. So do your research, team up with friends, and get a head start on shaping your future!
By Olivia Latta
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