National Voter Registration Day comes but once a year with an important message: Your voice matters. Yet, every year, we seem to exclude millions of teens who are old enough to realize their futures are on the line, yet are too young to vote. This year, Vote.org created Pledge to Register (informally called “Pledge to Reg”) to drum up excitement amongst Gen Z and encourage future voters to register to vote once they turn 18.
The Pledge to Reg tool is simple. Voting hopefuls ages 13-17 can visit Vote.org’s Pledge to Reg page and fill out the online form with their name, age, phone number, and zip code. Once they turn 18, they’ll receive a text message reminding them to register to vote along with a link to an online registration form. And, because the form is easily embeddable, any website can add the tool to its page to encourage the next generation of voters to partake in the democratic process.
“Vote.org is piloting the Pledge to Reg tool as part of our long-term, transformational effort intended to help young people establish voting habits early,” Kamari Guthrie, Director of Communications at Vote.org, tells SheKnows in a statement. “Generation Z will experience the effects of policies set in place by the next electorate for the longest portion of their life, so it’s paramount that their views are represented.”
People often say “the youth is the future,” but if Gen Z has shown us anything, it’s that they won’t go unnoticed during the present, either. Just this week, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg rallied millions in a global climate strike before she delivered a brilliant, passionate speech at the United Nations encouraging world leaders to work to reverse the devastating impact of climate change. (She also scorched U.S. President Donald Trump with a death stare and the ultimate online comeback after he mocked her on Twitter.) The Parkland teens have done more to combat gun violence since the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School than hundreds of elected adults have in decades. And every day, teens across the country are combatting bullying and racism, while starting vital conversations about mental health.
Gen Z will account for 10% of the eligible electorate in 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. Not to sound too desperate, but we could use every single one of those voters to create a brighter future and undo some of the damage we’ve done (please, kids, save us from ourselves!!!). By engaging potential voters now, Vote.org hopes teens will adopt lifelong voting habits.
While Vote.org’s new tool can’t guarantee an uptick in 2020 participation, it can start a critical conversation about the voting process and pressing political issues — and, hopefully, inspire the younger generation to create lasting change.