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Growing Voters: 18 Ways Youth Under 18 Can Contribute to Elections

Underage youth may not be able to vote in the general election, but their voices and actions can be a vital part of the political process

Being under 18 years old may mean that you cannot vote in the general election, but it doesn’t mean that young people cannot contribute to political engagement and to conversations about what’s important in an election year. For starters, in some states, 17-year-olds can vote in primaries, and youth who are 16 or 17 years old may be able to pre-register to vote so that they’re ready for the next election.

But beyond voting, whether in local, state, or national elections, there are countless ways for young people under 18 to participate in democracy. These contributions can occur in a range of settings and have a wide-reaching influence. These ways of engaging are steps on a path to growing as a future voter and to help grow voters in your community.

Here are 18 ways that youth under 18 can participate. We know there are more; explore what you and your peers can do in your community!

Support Your Family & Friends' Participation

  • Ask your friends and family if they are eligible and registered to vote, and if necessary bring them information to help them register. If they’re not eligible, ask them how they are going to participate
  • Help friends and family find reliable information about the election, the candidates, and important issues that they care about
  • Watch and discuss a local or national debate/forum with your family and friends
  • Organize or support conversations at school about elections and voting
  • Bring the Teaching for Democracy Alliance checklist or commitment to school leaders and work with them to make a plan to support student learning

Uplift Stories & Issues You Care About

  • Do research on an issue/policy you’re interested in to find reliable information on the candidates’ stance on the issue, and then share your viewpoint with those who can vote
  • Factcheck your research and then create media (e.g. images, videos, music) about candidates or issues you’re interested in and share them with others
  • Evaluate a range of news media coverage of the issues and candidates to understand how journalists are covering the election
  • Contact local media outlets about the issues you care about and offer to share your opinions and insights
  • Create media about the people and issues in a community that has few local media outlets or that you think hasn’t been portrayed accurately in election coverage
  • Tell stories about how youth of all ages—especially those from communities of color—are engaging in the election and share it with news organizations and social media so that a wider diversity of young people are better represented

Support a Candidate's Campaign

  • Volunteer on a local, state, or national political campaign
  • Attend a campaign event with a family member
  • Talk to those who are eligible to vote about your preferred candidates, what they stand for, and why it matters to you

Be a Part of the Process

  • Find out if you can work at the polls on Election Day—many states allow 16- and 17-year-olds to do it!
  • Work with a local organization that is registering others to vote
  • Design posters with key information about how, when and where to vote, and put them up at school and in your community
  • Send your friends and family reminders of when and where to vote on Election Day—even drive them if they need a ride!

CIRCLE Growing Voters

Released in 2022, the CIRCLE Growing Voters report introduces a new framework to transform how communities and institutions prepare youth for democracy. It includes major recommendations for organizations across sectors to do this work more equitably and effectively.