In Philadelphia public schools, over 8,000 students turn 18 every year. Out of those, only 15.2% are registered to vote. The Philadelphia City Commissioners Office has shown that 74% of those registered 18-year-olds voted in 2020 - a rate higher than Philadelphia’s overall turnout of 66%. New 18-year-olds often don’t understand the weight behind their vote due to a lack of education surrounding it.
Since Pennsylvania is a swing state and Philadelphia is a major city, voting is highly important. Starting voter education and registration early on will bring in more student voters, and that is exactly what a new policy proposed by the School Board of The Philadelphia School District puts forward. When students are registered and informed, they vote in higher numbers!
Although many school districts are already serving as voter registration agencies under their particular state and federal laws, and there is a voter education curriculum that already exists in Philadelphia, this new resolution exists to cement and create year-round efforts. This allows students to understand the democratic processes and why voting matters, while also allowing eligible students to sign up to vote. The district will continue to have a paid staff member at each high school serving as “Voter Champion,” providing voter registration materials to students as they become eligible. There will also be an emphasis on voter education in 12th-grade civics classes, as well as more voter engagement assemblies for high school students.
Schools and youth pushing to engage and educate students around voting makes a huge difference. Research shows that those who register to vote early typically continue to vote each year, while those who do not register at 18 end up doing the opposite.
The youth vote is incredibly important and influential. Less young people voting means that fewer people get to directly influence issues that will impact their lives in years to come, from college tuition reforms to federal job programs. With the new SDP voter policy, it is going to become easier than ever for Philadelphia School District students to become educated voters and help to make decisions that may impact their futures.
Students in the Philadelphia School District many times are going to schools with the worst funding disparity in the nation, with many having strong opinions on politics and democratic processes in our country, yet the number of young voters is still very low. Teens are many times not taught how to register to vote or become more civically engaged in society. They need support from their schools to learn more about democratic processes. This is why youth organizations work to create more nonpartisan voter education in the city.
This resolution was brought to life after over three years of advocacy by youth organizations, such as PA Youth Vote. PA Youth Vote is a nonpartisan coalition of organizations, youth, and educators who are dedicated to increasing voter registration in Pennsylvania through youth programs, peer-to-peer voter registration, and teacher organizational partnerships.
This year, PA Youth Vote is launching its 2022 Civic Engagement Ambassador Program to expand the electorate and encourage youth voter registration and mobilization in the 2022 midterm elections. With a focus on low-income and communities of color, and a youth-led community-based approach to community organizing and programming, ambassadors will take part in virtual and in-person registration and engagement strategies to change the culture around voting as the Commonwealth of PA is mobilized to turn out in 2022!
Apply for the program today and become part of the youth vote.