As a 17-year-old high school senior here in Philadelphia, I may not be old enough to vote, but my peers and I are acutely aware of how the outcome of the election will affect us youth, our families, our neighborhoods, and our futures. With so many important Pennsylvania races in play — U.S. Senate, Congress, Governor and more — now is not the time for anyone to feel relegated to the sidelines.
That’s why I put together this list of ways teens can make their voices heard, and make a meaningful difference.
Register to become a poll worker
High school students ages 17 and up are eligible to serve as poll workers in Pennsylvania. Poll workers help to ensure that Election Day runs smoothly — and are paramount to the success of our democracy. Bonus: You get paid: $200, plus $50 for training!
Interested high school students should contact their local election office, which you can find on the PA state website by selecting your home county. (Reminder: Philadelphia is a city and a county!)
Stepping up to become a poll worker is especially important this year as states across the country — including Pennsylvania — are facing a shortage of poll workers.
Hang up signs in your neighborhood
The Pennsylvania Voter Education Toolkit offers great resources, including printable signs that have information on how to vote via mail, and more. Or, make your own signs! Even a simple handmade sign hung in your window can help to spread the word.
Whatever information you choose to include on your signs, be sure to note that Election Day is November 8, and that polls are open from 7am to 8pm.
Educate yourself about the candidates and issues
It’s not uncommon for young people to feel like elections are irrelevant. But elections really do affect everything and anything you could possibly care about. So decide what issues matter to you — whether that’s abortion, education, climate change, student debt forgiveness, anything — and see how candidates’ policies align with these subject areas.
BallotReady is a great resource to learn about candidates’ stances on issues. All you have to do is enter your address. And, of course, candidates’ campaign websites are a good place to start, though it can be hard to wade through campaign jargon at times.
Elections aside, it’s important to have a basic understanding of how our government — and elections — operate. This free Kahn Academy course is a great way to learn about everything from campaign finance to the judicial branch.
Phone bank or send text messages
You can make calls or send text messages for candidates from the comfort of home. A good first step to locate volunteer positions are the websites of the Pennsylvania Democratic, Green, Libertarian and Republican parties. Campaign websites also frequently post opportunities.
Be sure to confirm age requirements for volunteering, and, when in doubt, consider getting an adult to join in on the volunteering with you.
Talk to those who can vote about issues that are important to you
It’s easy to share your story, and what you care about with those who can vote — whether that’s a parent, teacher, neighbor, or another adult in your life. Don’t underestimate the power of your passion: If you are concerned, excited, or confused about an issue or candidate on the ballot, make that known!
Conversations about fraught issues can seem scary, but they can make a difference. This guide, from Time Magazine, offers tips on how to navigate difficult political conversations at home.
Drive a fellow citizen to the polls
If you have Election Day off from school and a valid driver’s license, consider driving a family member or neighbor to the polls. This is especially helpful for elderly neighbors or those with physical disabilities.
Lyft is also offering 50 percent off codes for riders on Election Day to get to the poles. If you are unable to offer a ride, consider helping an elderly neighbor download rideshare apps like Lyft, or accompany them to their polling place.
Repost information on social media
For all of its ills, social media can be a valuable tool to share information about the upcoming election. Consider reposting information from candidates and organizations that you agree with and feel passionate about. Information about polling places, and ID requirements for first time voters can also be great things to repost.
And as with anything on social media, be sure that what you are sharing is credible and accurate.
Make sure people who are registered to vote, actually do so
Talk to your family and friends who are eligible and registered to vote and make sure they have a plan for voting on Election Day, including how they are getting to the polls.
Consider volunteering with a national non-profit organization, Vote Forward, which sends letters to registered voters in underrepresented communities encouraging them to vote. The process is simple: You sign-up, join a letter-writing campaign, and send non-partisan letters to voters. The Pennsylvania specific letter writing campaign is in its final stages and looking for final volunteers to send the last letters by October 29.
If someone who is registered to vote does not know their polling place, you can help them find it here.
Write to your elected officials
Finally, while not necessarily specific to the upcoming midterm elections, writing to your elected officials is a great way to make your voice heard, no matter your age. Send an email, letter, or a tweet to those who represent you, explaining your perspective on an issue you care about. It’s their job to listen.
If you are unsure of where to start, check out this guide from The Citizen.
MORE ON YOUTH VOTING FROM THE CITIZEN