In the last election, only 1 in 3 young people eligible to vote did so. When We All Vote, a program launched by former first lady Michelle Obama in 2019, is designed to increase voter participation in every election and make voting a lifelong habit. On April 20, the former first lady hosted the first in a series of virtual events specifically for educators, designed to help them make sure their students get registered to vote and to encourage their civic engagement.
The current environment makes this work more urgent than ever before, said Obama. We need to educate ourselves on our rights as voters. She encouraged educators to have conversations about why voting is important and then push for policies at the federal, state and local levels to guarantee safe and fair elections not just in this upcoming election but in the future.
AFT President Randi Weingarten joined the online event, which was part of an Educator Action Series organized by My School Votes, an initiative of When We All Vote that aims to establish schools as voter registration hubs that ensure every eligible student is registered. The series is a call to action for teachers and students to get involved in the program.
“We are seeing that every inequity has been exposed with this crisis, from the lines at food banks to the lack of protective equipment for healthcare workers,” said Weingarten. “We need to be thinking about how to engage members and students so that they have power and a sense of hope through that power. If we don't vote, we don't get to change things. If we don't vote, we don't get that power.”
Weingarten noted that, during the coronavirus pandemic, people are more grateful than ever for our teachers. “With home learning, people are getting a sense of the work we do, and they are beginning to understand that teaching is both an art and a science.”
When it comes to voter increasing registration and participation, Weingarten urged teachers to join the My School Votes Educator Action Series, find ways to connect virtually with their students and other educators, share opportunities to register students, and work with students to build a My School Votes team.
“Students have the energy to do this work, and we need teachers to help support the effort to build registration teams,” said My School Votes Director Andrew Amore. Starting April 28, the Educator Action Series will be held on Tuesdays every other week and will provide online organizing training to teachers that will enable them to register and recruit their students and colleagues.