Building Power Through Voter Engagement: Opportunities and Challenges

In the past, many youth organizing groups have focused on issue organizing and stayed away from anything having to do with elections, but this is changing. Our 2013 Field Scan, found that over a third of youth organizing groups do some kind of voter engagement and another third are interested in starting.

Young people of color are one of the fastest growing segments of the electorate and the Obama elections show that they can have a huge impact. But they are often disillusioned by institutions that have failed them repeatedly and political parties that seem unable to speak to their concerns. This creates an opportunity for youth organizing groups who are truly led by young people of color to play a leading role in reaching this powerful constituency and therefore have a tremendous impact on our democracy.

Voter engagement can be challenging and messy work. There are confusing laws, complex data systems, funders expect large scale outcomes, and some groups are understandably mistrustful of an often corrupt system. On the other hand, some organizations have found that when combined with real leadership development and issue organizing, voter engagement can be a critical way to engage communities, win attention from officials, and build meaningful power.

In 2015, FCYO released an analysis of youth organizing around voter engagement called Now or Never: The Fight for the Millennial Generation written by Quadrant Metrics. On this webinar, FCYO will share some of our lessons learned about youth organizing and voter engagement and we will hear from two organizations that have successfully integrated voter engagement into their work. They will talk about how they have done this and the challenges and benefits.

With the 2016 presidential election coming soon, now is an important time for youth organizing groups to think about how they want to include voter engagement in their strategies to build power.

Moderator: Eric Braxton, FCYO