Why Should I Vote

by wendy16
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Summary: This workshop is designed for college students and other young people to help them think about t he reasons one should vote. The workshop is specific to the U.S. and assumes that the participants are eligible to vote. The workshop is interactive an
PHENND Training Series
Why Should I Vote?
This workshop is designed for college students and other young
people to help them think about t
he reasons one should vote.
The workshop is specific to
the U.S. and assumes that the
participants are eligible to vote.
The workshop is interactive and
covers the history of the vote, re
asons not to vote, and specifics
of voting procedures.
Political Action, Civic Engagement
Level: All
Structured activity suitable for
an uninterrupted workshop format.
Works best in a small to medium group settings (under 20-30
Goals of this Guide:
At the end of this works
hop participants will be able to:
Describe how various groups obtained
the right to vote in the U.S.
Persuade their peers to vote
Understand the policies and procedur
es around voting in the U.S.
Post-it notes
Enough pens for all participants
Poster-size paper
How to Prepare:
Look over this workshop and make sure y
ou understand what you are supposed to do.
Prepare visuals (voting timeline on chart paper).
Brief Outline:
Why Should I Vote?:
This 2-hour workshop has the following parts:
Icebreaker & Introductions
suggested time 15 minutes
Discussion of Voting Rights hi
story suggested time 20 minutes
Why Don’t We Vote? suggested time 20 minutes
The Issues suggested time 20 minutes
How to Vote suggested time 15 minutes
Convince me to vote! suggested time 20 minutes
suggested time 10 minutes
Part 1) Icebreaker & Introductions
Suggested time: 15 minutes
Facilitators should introduce themselves and
give a basic overview of the workshop:
History, low voter turnout in the younger
population, the issues
, and how to vote.
Congratulate the group for par
ticipating and emphasize ho
w important it is for
EVERYONE to know their voting rights and par
ticipate ACTIVELY in this process.
As a warm-up, play the “Me T
oo” game—it’s easy. Facilitat
ors will shout out a positive
statement, like, “I like to dance!
”—everyone in the room who
also likes to dance should
stand up and shout “me too!” Of c
ourse you’ll need to tell t
hem that ahead of time. The
facilitators should make the first few statement
s that will segue to the subject of voting.
“I like to learn new things!” “I like senators
who care about my interests!” Make up some
of your own that you think your group will respond to.
Break your participants into
four smaller groups. Have t
hem introduce themselves and
say why they’re here. Allow 5-10 minutes fo
r this and then reconvene to review some
voting history.
Part 2) Discussion of
Voting Rights history
Suggested time: 20 minutes
Briefly present the following information,
using visual aides and handouts (see below).
Review the following changes in voting rights.
With each, ask stud
ents to explain the
context of this change – why did this c
hange happen? Who fought fo
r it? Who fought
against it? Refer to Constitutional Amendmen
ts Related to Voting Rights handout (see
page 9)
Constitution grants states the authority to
set election guidelines. All states allow
only white men with property
the right to vote.
Black men win the right to vote in 1870.
Why Should I Vote?:
Women win the right to vote in 1920.
18-20 year olds win the right to vote in 1971.
Who can’t vote or who has diminished vo
ting status? (do a brainstorm and fill in
important missing responses) – see addi
tional fact sheets for each answer
Non-citizens with exceptions
Residents of the District of Columbia
Puerto Ricans
Other residents of
U.S. territories
The U.S. has some of the lowest voter turn out of any industrialized democracy.
Over the last ten years
(1991-2001), the following countr
ies had the following voter
Australia – 83%
Canada – 60%
Denmark – 83%
Italy – 90 %
U.S. – 45%
Only Switzerland (38%) and Guatemala (24%)
had lower turnout for the same period of
Have students review turnout by age (see below). Discuss the reasons for low turnout
among young people.
Part 3) Why don’t we vote?
Suggested time: 20 minutes
Return to smaller groups. Distribute a lar
ge sheet of paper and a marker to each group;
designate a scribe and a spokesperson for each group.
Workshop leader will ask two
questions and ask each group
to discuss and list their
answers. The leader should allow
5-7 minutes for each question.
we vote?
Why Should I Vote?:
Wait until each group has written
out 5-6 reasons. Then, ask:
2. Why
we vote?
Then, reconvene and invite group spokes
people to stand before
the larger group.
Reiterate the first question and have each
spokesperson share his or her group’s
answers. Give a brief analysis of peoples’ re
sponses, emphasizing those that reference
themes that will be discussed later in the workshop.
Establish a few points of focus in this di
scussion beforehand; if they are not raised by
participants, be sure to talk about
them. Some good examples would be:
Every vote
count. If politicians see that
the student voting population is
turning out heavily on El
ection Day, they will
to pay attention to our
concerns. You may not be into politics, but
politicians are into you. And due
to the peculiarities of the Electoral Co
llege, politicians are especially into you
if you live in a “swing stat
e” like Pennsylvania. Bush has visited Pennsylvania
more than any other state ov
er the course of his term. Kerry has also made
an exceptionally high number of
visits to Pennsylvania.
As Americans, voting is our right. As
citizens of the world, voting is our
privilege. The actions of our
government directly affect people in countries all
over the world. If not for ourselves, we owe it to
the rest of the world
to vote
for strong, visionary leaders.
If you care about democracy, social just
ice, foreign policy, the armed forces,
education, healthcare, social security
, the environment, or pretty much
anything else, you owe it to yourself,
and everyone else who cares, to vote.
Part 4) The Issues
Suggested time: 20 minutes
Ask the group: how do the
of a campaign affect us?
On flip chart paper, divide a sheet in half by
drawing a line vertically
down the middle.
On the left, brainstorm a list of the issues that
seem to matter in this election. (ex. the
War in Iraq, the economy, stem cell research
, the candidates’ war records) Then do a
list of issues that your participants care
about. How closely do these lists match? Why
or why not?
Conventional wisdom is that y
oung people often don’t vote bec
ause they don’t feel that
the candidates speak to “their issues.”
How accurate is this statement?
Consider these issues:
Why Should I Vote?:
Education is EXPENSIVE. What
if you could elect a congress
person or president who is
serious about lowering the cost of educat
ion, making expanding
educational grants and
student aid, helping students get out of debt?
Healthcare is EXPENSIVE. Do
you have health insurance? If not, wouldn’t you vote for
a candidate who made it possible? If you do ha
ve healthcare, is it affordable? As a
student, you may still qualify for coverage under y
our family’s plan, but sooner or later,
you will have to start paying for healthcare.
Have you completed any military service?
Do you know anyone who is performing U.S.
military service in Iraq or anywhere else in
the world? How does the War affect your
likelihood of voting for various candidates?
Part 5) How to vote
Suggested time: 15 minutes
Now that everyone knows
they should vote, teach them
to vote. There isn’t
much to it, but voting laws differ from state
to state, so be sure to check your state
website (voting information is usually found
on the Secretary of State website—the
PHENND website offers a list of web addre
sses for each state
in pdf form).
See http://www.phennd.org/inde
The model used here is for Pennsylvania. All dat
es are specific to
the elections that will
take place on November 4, 2008. Law
s are all in effect as of this date. For voting laws in
any other state, check the websit
e for your secretary of state
In order to vote in the upcoming
election in Pennsylvania, you must:
Be a U.S. citizen
Be at least 18 years old on or befor
e the day of the general election.
Send your properly completed voter
registration form to
the Pennsylvania
Secretary of State no late
r than October 6, 2008.
ALL students who live on campus
during the academic year may register in or change
their registration to the precinct on or closest to campus.
Tell participants where the nearest polling place
is, giving them directions if necessary.
Pennsylvania polls open at 7AM and close at
8PM. Contact your County Board of
Elections (http://www.votespa.com/C
US/Default.aspx) regarding voting eligibility a
nd polling places. If you
live in the City of
Philadelphia, you can also visit http://seventy.
org/cac to find your polling place.
The federal election reform bill, th
e “Help America Vote Act of 2002,”
Why Should I Vote?:
) also known as “HAVA,” makes the following
identification requirements on
anyone who has registered by mail, or is voting for the
first time. You must provide photo I.D. when
voting for the first time, unless you provide
your current driver’s license number or the last
four digits of your social security number
on the registration form. The ident
ification information is either:
Valid photo I.D. or a copy of a such
A copy of a utility bill, bank statement,
government check, paycheck, or other
government document showing name and address
For more information on HAVA, visit Demos (http://www.demos.org) or National
Campaign for Fair Elections (http://
Voting Absentee?
In any state, you are eligible to vote
absentee as a student. Some state sources spell
this out, others do not. Regardle
ss, the most important rule
is that you are allowed to
vote absentee if you know that you will be
absent from your county or district on
Election Day. State requirements for obt
aining an absentee ballot
vary—be sure to
check the Project Vote Smart website (
) for absentee info on each
state. If you are in Pennsyl
vania or New Jersey, you can
also download
PHENND’s pdf
files that contain all necessary information
on voting absentee in eit
her of these states.
Facilitators should use this time to talk about upcoming events on or near campus
where candidates or campaign
representatives will be
speaking. Emphasize the value
of learning about the candidates for loca
l elections, and recommend some ways that
students can find out more about those
candidates and their interests.
Part 6) Convince me to vote!
Suggested time: 20 minutes
Let’s do some role plays! Invite a pair of
group members to the front. In each role play,
one person will try to convince the other to
vote. Prepare note cards with the following
voting that the other person will re
fute. Feel free to offer brief
commentary between role plays
if you think that the pair
has addressed a particularly
important topic, or if they’ve bro
ught the discussion into new territory.
I’m not voting because politics doesn’t affect me because I’m rich. I have tons of
money because: A. My family gives it to
me. B. I still sell beanie babies on e-bay.
C. I got a huge settlement when so-and-so
hit me with his SUV (choose one.)
I don’t like any of the candidates. The on
ly person I would vote for is (Ani
DiFranco, J. Lo, David Sedaris, Chris Rock, anyone else.)
Why Should I Vote?:
Politicians don’t address the issues that
I care about, like (any of the issues
we’ve discussed.)
My vote doesn’t count; I’m only one person.
The government controls the outcome of
every election, so it won’t matter who I
vote for.
It’s too complicated. I have to fill out
some form that I don’t
know where to get
and I’m not sure who to vote
for. I’d rather just not
bother with the whole thing.
Part 7) Wrap-up
Suggested time: 10 minutes
Congratulations! You’ve finished your wor
kshop. Be prepared to distribute info on
absentee voting, voting laws in
your state, and contact information for all county
elections boards in your state as well as
directions to the polling place(s) for your
college (it may be on or off campus).
Another good way to keep in
touch with students is to get their email addresses and
send them reminders and information on sc
heduled voter education/motivation events.
Also, see if you can make a page on your colle
ge website that is devoted to voting laws,
issues, registration, and then spread the

word, encouraging people to check it out


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