This was originally published by YOUTH RADIO. Illustration by Desmond Meagley.
Youth-led activism organizations across the country have banded together to rally young people to walk out of class and march to the polls to cast their vote on Election Day.
#WalkoutToVote is the inaugural initiative of the Future Coalition, a network of national organizations that prides itself on being entirely youth-led and “founded by young activists, for young activists.”
There are about 500 walkouts planned at schools across the country.
YR Media correspondent Kyra Azore spoke with Katie Eder of Milwaukee and the executive director of 50 More Miles, one of the organizations under the Future Coalition, about their efforts to get young people to vote in this midterm election.
The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Kyra Azore: Why is it important for young people to vote in this particular election?
Katie Eder: Young people have in the past showed up to the polls in very low numbers. Which is really disappointing because while we may only be 25 percent of the nation’s population, we are 100 percent of the future. And we need to make sure that as our future gets built around us, that we have a say in it.
If we come together and collectively all decide that we’re going to go to the polls, we can have an immense impact on the outcome of this election and therefore what the future of this country looks like.
Are you worried about any backlash from school administrators from your efforts of encouraging students to leave class?
As we’ve seen from walkouts earlier this year, there are administrators who are really supportive and love that students are taking action. And then there are some who are not as supportive. We are expecting the same thing this time, and all we can do is offer support and resources to students who are planning walkouts.
Voting is not political or polarized, but it’s about civic engagement. We are really hoping that administrators will see and hear students when they say that ‘I want to be a part of this process.’ We’re hoping that’s the message that administrators can then take to heart and work with their students to put on really successful walkouts.
#WalkOutToVote isn’t just about high schools. How are you targeting college campuses to get those students to walk out?
It’s all about changing the culture around voting. We have some middle school kids who are doing walkouts as well, which is really cool.
Most everyone in college is eligible to vote, so that’s a big target demographic in asking to walk out. We are working with college students to design a walkout structure that really fits for colleges. What we’re thinking is more of a march to the polls where students make it communal and visible.
#WalkOutToVote isn’t necessarily just about getting up from class and leaving, but the biggest part is making voting something that’s a community event. Something that is visible, something that is heard and seen by people all across the country.
In the past, we’ve seen young people really turn out to vote in presidential elections, but not usually for a midterm. How are you working to change the narrative surrounding when your vote matters?
We are really encouraging young people to get informed about voting, about who’s on the ballot and what a ballot looks like. I think voting, in general, can be a very daunting process. Our votes have even more of a greater impact when it comes to the local and state elections. No matter where you are, your vote is going to have an impact on the election. Young people are showing up in local elections because those often are what’s going to affect us, our community and our family and friends most directly.
What do you say to young people who are feeling discouraged in our current political climate and feel like their vote doesn’t matter?
It can be very discouraging and we all, I think, are discouraged at times when we see things happening with our political system. I think that it’s very easy to feel like “what’s the point?” And we all go through that at some level. But we can’t stop fighting. We can’t stop using our voice.
Right now, we might be in a time where it feels our voices aren’t being heard and our perspectives aren’t being taken into account. But the truth is we’re going to keep fighting and we’re going to get there eventually. We’re going to continue to try to make this country have a future that we all want to live in, and I think we’ll get there.
Future Coalition is a coalition of youth-led organizations across the country. Will you all continue to mobilize and work together after the midterm election?
Yes, we have some very cool projects in the works. #WalkOutToVote is just the beginning of Future Coalition. We have some really awesome different projects that we’re all collaborating on and that other organizations are doing that the Coalition is supporting.
This is just the beginning for the youth movement. We’re going to continue fighting and demand change, because I think it’s going to make us really powerful and really impactful moving forward.