#FutureVoter — A PSA by Students, for Students
Written by Malia Renner-Singer, 2020 Regional Teacher of the Year from North Central ESD 171 (Cascade High School, Leavenworth, WA).
If you ask any social studies teacher his or her purpose in teaching, they will most likely tell you a variation of the same thing: to inspire our students to become active citizens. We see, dream, and plan for our students’ futures as adults who regularly vote, show up for jury duty, pay attention to economic, social and political issues, use civil discourse to debate and discuss those issues, and give back to their communities. Washington legislation (RCW 28A.230.150) supports student’s civic engagement through voter registration on January 16, Temperance and Good Citizenship Day.
Here’s a PDF guide with everything you need to know.
Our students who are Washington State residents and U.S. citizens no longer need to wait until their 18th birthday to register to vote. Instead, as soon as they turn 16, they can sign up on VoteWA.gov and become immediately eligible to vote on their 18th birthday. On Temperance and Good Citizenship Day — January 16th, 2020 — social studies teachers must, as resources allow, coordinate a voter registration event in each history or social studies class attended by high school seniors. This event is part of the future voter program. Teachers must make voter sign up and registration available to all students. What does this mean for the high school teacher? We can now assist our eligible 11th and 12th grade students in voter registration instead of waiting to help those students who are lucky enough to turn 18 while in our classrooms.
I’m so excited to share with you the #FutureVoter public service announcement (PSA) that was created by my 12th grade students to educate other high schoolers about these changes. OSPI visited my class and gave my students a quick tutorial in film production and then handed the gear over to the students. Out of this lesson came this PSA.
My students were creators of this PSA, both in front of and behind the camera. It’s improvised, silly and fun just like they are — everything you see comes from them, from their testimonials about why they vote to the dancing in the background. Digital media is the language of their era, and what better way to share this important message — a video written and produced by students, for students in their preferred medium.
I encourage you to use not only this video with your students, but also the #FutureVoter materials provided by the Secretary of State and OSPI to encourage early voter registration. All of these materials are readily available for you at www.k12.wa.us/futurevoter and sos.wa.gov/elections/future-voter-program.aspx.
Here are some tips from my own experiences with #FutureVoter:
1. Filling out online forms — especially for students who are not used to doing so — is harder than it seems. During their senior year, students will be filling out plenty of online forms for college, scholarship, and job applications. Consider this another way for them to practice! Remind students to be careful of spelling and explain to them the difference between their mailing and their home address.
2. Part of the transition to adulthood for students is learning when to use their full legal name — and this is the time to do so. Many students use nicknames or have multiple last names that they do not use on a regular basis. I emphasize with students to use the name on their Driver’s License and/or Social Security Card.
3. Have a plan for how to protect the safety and identity of undocumented students in your class who will be ineligible to register to vote. Please see the #FutureVoter materials for ideas on how to address this in your classroom. Since information on citizenship status is confidential — even from teachers and schools — it is imperative that you have a way to protect that confidentiality.
4. It’s a good idea to have a few paper copies of the voter registration form, found at VoteWA.gov, handy for students without Washington State ID or who otherwise run into trouble.
Finally, because what unites all of us teachers is our love for our students, I can’t help but want to tell you stories about the students I love who are featured in this video. I want you to know how excited Olivia was when she got into Washington State University and the fact that Sage was dancing with a 100-degree fever. I want you to know about Tagen’s performances on the stage, Arturo’s dance routine that he performed during halftime at a football game, Jose’s desire to become a police officer, Karina’s incredible determination and Emma’s bravery and humor. But know this: the students you see in this PSA are exactly like yours. They are fun, smart, hard-working, diverse and creative. Your students will see someone just like them in this video.
Enjoy this short PSA. The students you see in the video and the ones you show it to are our future. They are truly our #FutureVoters.
A note from OSPI:
In 2019, the Office of the Secretary of State implemented the program, allowing 16- and 17-year olds to sign up as future voters and be automatically registered to vote when they turn 18. The law enacted in 2018 requires schools to provide high school seniors the opportunity to register to vote during social studies instructional time on Temperance and Good Citizenship Day in January.
To support this important legislation, the Office of the Secretary of State and the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction collaborated to create a media campaign to provide voter registration materials, lesson plans, and digital media to encourage future voter registration on this Temperance and Good Citizenship Day, January 16, 2020. You can view the joint signed letter by clicking here. Please visit k12.wa.us/futurevoter or sos.wa.gov/elections/future-voter-program.aspx to download the #FutureVoter materials.