I remember being a young child and tagging along with my parents on election day as they cast their votes at the polls. I was fascinated, although I did not completely understand what voting entailed. I held the voting process in high regard and viewed it as an adult responsibility I would eventually have the opportunity to take part in.
I felt the same anticipation for becoming old enough to get a driver's license, a first job and a spot on a varsity sports team. Why is it, though, that while many of these activities remain of interest to us as we get older, the excitement of registering to vote often diminishes?
I believe this may result from a simple lack of understanding of the impact of a vote. As citizens of Pennsylvania and the United States, we should become more educated on the impact that every single vote has on our lives. This is also a key component of running a successful high school voter registration drive.
As a student leader and organizer of a voter registration drive last school year at Canon-McMillan High School in Canonsburg, PA, I noticed that many of my peers were initially uninterested in registering to vote. It was not until there was a collective understanding that every vote counts that interest in voter registration increased. By the end of our drive, we succeeded in registering to vote approximately 70% of our eligible students, for which we received the
Governor's Civic Engagement Award (GCEA).
Perhaps the key strategy in our success was providing a simple way to register. Along with several classmates, I spoke to social studies classes about the importance of our generation becoming more involved in local, state and federal government. We also showed them how easy it is to become a registered voter.
It was important to target potential voters through school news sites and social media accounts because young people prefer these means of accessing information.
Providing school computers and giving students time to complete the registration application also added to our success. Holding voter registration drives early enough that people have ample time to complete the process before registration deadlines is crucial.
I had the privilege of being a poll worker twice during my senior year of high school. It was exciting to see my peers cast their first votes in an election.
Just as exciting was seeing senior citizens take the time to exercise their right to vote, many of whom said they had never missed an opportunity to vote. Some of them were the first members of their families who could take advantage of the voting process because in their parents' day women didn't have the right to vote and members of minority groups were often prevented from exercising their right to vote.
I feel just as proud to wear my "I Voted" sticker as a young adult as I felt watching my parents vote when I was a child. I hope that my generation feels the same pride and continues to exercise their right to vote throughout their lives.
About the Author
Abby Daniels is one of eight high school students in Pennsylvania who received an individual GCEA award for serving as a poll worker and registering her peers to vote during the 2018-19 school year. A June graduate of Canon-McMillan High School, she plans to study political science at American University in Washington, D.C., this fall.