Inspire U.S.: The Power of the Youth

The following post is by Ambika Verma a biology major at the University of California, Los Angeles. She serves on the Nevada Secretary of State’s Committee on Participatory Democracy where she suggests and implements improvements in the state’s voting system, is active in her student government on campus, and has, in the past, worked closely with the nonprofit Inspire U.S. to register students to vote at her high school and attend community events with local officials.  Government is the people’s servant; it is for the people and by the people. The cornerstone of our enduring democracy is civic virtue, yet in recent years we have seen a stark fall in civic efficacy. Everyone, regardless of age, creed, or background owns a stake in the public policies legislated by their local, state, and federal governments. Unfortunately, millennials, despite composing a large part of the electorate, continue to have the lowest voter turnout of any age group. As the future of our nation, millennials have the largest stake in our government. That is why in high school, I got involved in Inspire Nevada, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization under Inspire U.S. Inspire U.S. is based on the concept of peer-to-peer voter registration and aims to empower students to drive positive change in their communities by using their voices. As a part of Inspire Nevada and Inspire U.S., I received opportunities to not only register more than 75% of my senior class, but also to engage with community leaders, research legislation and lobby, and give workshops on civil discourse and civic engagement to my peers. Each year, we would have an annual multi-day forum where...

Stand Up for Student Voting Rights in Florida

The following post is by Anna Baringer from Gainesville, Florida. Anna is a student at University of Florida where she studies economics and political science. In addition to being on the Campus Vote Project Student Advisory Board, she also serves as president of a student organization called Gators for Underrepresented Voters. She helps provide nonpartisan information to students and organize voter registration drives and advocacy events. In Florida, no college campus can serve as an early voting location. Florida Statute 101.657 lists the locations permitted to host early voting locations. Despite listing locations like a “stadium, convention center… or government-owned community center,” in 2014,  Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner declared that the University of Florida could not use our student union as an early voting location. The director of the Florida Division of Elections, Maria Matthews, later released a statement stating the student union does not qualify as a government-owned convention center because “the Reitz Union is a structure designed for, and affiliated with, a specific educational institution.” This statute interpretation has rippled to prevent any building on any Florida campus from being used as an early voting site. As a result, students at many of the state’s biggest universities, are faced with a dilemma: walk miles to the nearest polling location or wait to cast a ballot until Election Day. At the University of Florida, home to more than 50,000 students, the nearest early voting location is 2.5 miles away, about a 50-minute walk. At the University of Central Florida, a school of almost 70,000, the nearest early voting site is 3 miles away, about an hour’s...

Act Now. Engage Your Peers

The following post is by Amara Reese-Hansell from Bozeman, Montana and a current student at Montana State University where she studies political science and women/gender studies. In addition to being on the Campus Votes Student Advisory Board, she also works at Forward Montana Foundation as the High School Outreach Coordinator. She facilitates high school programs across the state and creates spaces for young people to flex their organizing and leadership skills. She is also on the board of Montana Conservation Voters. Creating spaces for young people of all genders, races, and abilities to engage in our democracy is something I am incredibly passionate about – which is why both the CVP Student Advisory Board and Forward Montana Foundation have been so important to me. There are many reasons why young people might feel disengaged and disempowered in politics. To name a few – the language of ballot initiatives is not often meant to be read and understood by young people, polling locations are often in difficult places for college students and other young people to navigate, information is low and sometimes impossible to find for local and state races. The bright side is – these problems are fixable. There are small ways to make big changes in your community that allow more equitable access to our ballot box. Organize a call night with your friends and call the young people in your community to remind them when and where they can cast their ballot in the upcoming election. Attend your senator’s town halls and ask them questions – hold them accountable. Call your local high school and make sure seniors...