When you’re too young to vote, it’s easy to feel like the world of politics is closed off to you. During this past U.S. election, I was in the same boat that thousands of teenagers across the country were in as well; I watched the election happen, and I had opinions on it, but because I couldn’t vote, I was relegated to the role of an observer. I was of the (wrong) opinion that my age meant I couldn’t be politically active. In fact, it’s critical that teens start to develop educated opinions now. We’re going to inherit this country. It’s vital that we know what we want for it. Teenagers under the age of eighteen may not be able to vote, but there are other ways to be politically active that don’t involve filling out a ballot.
This is arguably the most critical thing anyone could do. If you aren’t well-informed on the issues that are out there, how do you know which to invest your time and effort in? If you want to be involved, you first have to be well-informed. Try not to get all of your information from one source, as some may be biased and may not cover every fact. Keep your research bipartisan and base your opinion off of facts.
Photo: @bamagal on Unsplash
Volunteer for a cause you care about
Not only does volunteering look good on a college application, it also has real-world benefits. Once you’ve decided what issues are important to you, you can find opportunities in your community that help those causes. Remember that you don’t have to do everything! No one person can save the world; pick one or two causes so you don’t get burned out. Examples of organizations that accept teen volunteers include the ACLU, local city councils, political campaigns, Young Democrats of America, and Young Republicans.
Attend rallies, debates, and club meetings
If an event is occurring in your area, you should consider going! Often, they are great opportunities to learn more about a cause, candidate, or organization, and they can be invaluable in building relationships with like-minded people. You can also express your support for that particular cause. Often, schools also have ways you can become involved in politics. Many schools now have clubs for political debate, young Democrats, and Young Republicans. If your school has clubs affiliated with parties, you may want to consider occasionally attending the one with which you do not agree, as it may open you to new ideas.
Contact your legislators
Although there may be a minimum required age to vote, there is none to contact your legislators. Most experts recommend phone calls, but if you’d prefer, you can also write a personal letter. Officials rarely hear from constituents on any issues, so hearing from just a few concerned citizens can persuade a representative or senator to change their vote. It’s important to contact members of legislature that support both sides of an issue, because lobbying can change votes. The ACLU has a page with ways to contact all senators and representatives, as well as the Supreme Court.
Attend local town hall/city council/school board meetings
Often, when people discuss politics, they focus on what’s currently happening in Washington D.C. The issues that often impact us the most, however, are decided closest to home. They’re also often the most accessible; local officials are often open to interacting with teens who want to learn. You may even have the opportunity to speak on an issue you care about, should you choose to do so.
Do you like to write? If so, you can express your beliefs in a couple of different ways. First, you can start your own blog. You’ll have the ability to say what you want, share it with others, and improve your writing skills. Second, the number of online publications that accepts writing from teens is steadily growing. If you’re willing to commit to a schedule, these online magazines can be a great way to share your opinions, start discussions, and educate others. Some examples of publications that take political content are Affinity Magazine, Harvie Avenue, and Women’s Republic.
Even if you’re not old enough to vote, there’s no reason not to be involved. After all, it’s still your country. The decisions that are made have the power to impact you. Step up and get involved; it’s your future.
Eve is an avid writer based in the Sunshine State. She enjoys reading, writing, playing with her cats, and participating in Mock Trial. In the future, she plans to go to law school to pursue a career as a district attorney.