First Published February 10, 2020
The following Blog was originally published by Tracker Apps friend, Cathryn Berger Kaye. Thank you for allowing us to repost your article!
Who can influence voter registration? Even our youngest children can have a loud voice to make a more just and inclusive democracy.
Read on to find out about how it started, the CBK Associates/ECSL Collaboration, and how to get FREE RESOURCES customized for your state – and there is one for international schools (wow!).
How it started – a teacher collaboration: Years ago I was invited to lead workshops on social and emotional development along with service learning as part of the inaugural events at the Museum of Tolerance in New York City (now closed). Attending the sessions were educators from the Bellmore-Merrick School District on Long Island. This began a long term relationship in providing programming to assist their school community transform challenges into opportunities for growth.
One summer workshop on Service Learning had about 60 district teachers K-12 in attendance. Being a presidential election year, we were discussing the importance of voting when a primary teacher exclaimed, “I want my students to understand the importance of voting!”
A middle school teacher followed with, “I want my middle school students to understand voting well enough to teach your students.”
The room was getting lit. Murmurings were audible.
The primary teacher added, “And then my primary children can relay to high school students the importance of voting!” If “mike drop” was a thing back then, it would have been a thing.
How could young children influence the older ones? We came up with Birthday Cards delivered to high schoolers on or around the date of their eligibility to register to vote. The young ones would learn, guided by their middle school aides, about voting and identify all the reasons voting matters. They would include a letter describing their perspective on the voting imperative along with a Voter Registration Card and Happy Birthday message. Their reasons for voting may revolve around issues they care about and have studied, or around the history of how voting has been a challenge for many populations and how this struggle can be honored through each person voting today. Voting is a necessity for our democracy to survive and thrive. Every Vote Counts!
This idea continued to percolate. Would it work? Can young children increase their sphere of influence around voting? And there is only one viable answer. YES.
A Collaboration for REGISTERING VOTERS TODAY: Now we take this idea nationwide thanks to a partnership with the Educators Consortium for Service Learning – ECSL – a Los Angeles based organization providing K-12 teachers and administrators professional development and collegial exchange to advance service-learning. Together we have launched this campaign to energize educators and let children, ages 5-16, be catalysts for voter registration through Happy Birthday—Now Vote!
We provide Happy Birthday-Now VOTE! documents with a description of the process and voter registration information state-by-state, since it does vary state-by-state. We encourage youth of all ages — especially elementary age children — to make and deliver birthday cards to new voters at a partner high school. In the card, they include a letter of why voting matters and a Voter Registration Card and/or online Voter Registration Information.
Youth of ALL ages can also:
- Learn about why voting matters with an historical perspective of the challenges and struggles that continue today.
- Compare candidate views on their priority issues.
- Assist family, friends and neighbors in registering to vote, confirming registrations are up-to-date,checking information on absentee and early voting rules, and locating polling centers; all can be done online.
- Ask friends and neighbors they know of voting age how and when they will vote – many voting centers will be open for four to eleven days.
- Check if anyone needs transportation assistance to the polls and help identify solutions.
Our Happy Birthday–Now VOTE! materials include an annotated booklist and select videos and resources from different organizations all to deepen knowledge about democracy, our history, and the work needed to be done now (a shout out for service learning) to ensure the idea of “One Person, One Vote” becoming a reality.
HOW TO GET FREE Happy Birthday-Now VOTE! RESOURCES: Request Happy Birthday—Now Vote! materials by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and letting us know your state. We will then send the appropriate documents.
HOW DO WE KNOW THIS IS HAPPENING? Stay in touch! Snap photos of birthday cards. Let us know what high school is your partner. Register the numbers of cards produced. Send the info to email@example.com and Donna Ritter at firstname.lastname@example.org and post the info on Twitter and Instagram #HBDNowVOTE.
JOIN US! Join the movement to increase voter registration and support knowledgeable young voters contributing to secure our democracy.
Cathryn Berger Kaye, CBK Associates, and Donna Ritter, Educators Consortium for Service Learning