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 who are turning 18 are being given with voter registration forms. Organize rides to the polls on Election Day for people who might have different abilities.
We know 2018 is going to be a big year, so we need to start now. By organizing our friends, families, and neighbors we can create real, tangible change across the country. Support the young people in your community. Lift up their voices. If you are a young person yourself, get involved and get going. Not later – now! Find an issue you’re passionate about and volunteer, ask a mentor for ways to get involved, demand that your college campus take steps to make the democratic processes more accessible. Your voice, opinions, thoughts, background, and hope for the future is crucial for a sustainable movement.