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SJ Engage: Voting 101

Submitted by TeenHQ on Thu, 10/15/2020 - 12:00 PM
Scattered "I Voted" stickers with the American flag on a white background.

"Our ability to participate in government, to elect our leaders and to improve our lives, is contingent upon our ability to access the ballot. We know in our heart of hearts that voting is a sacred right — the fount from which all other rights flow. Now, it’s time to live that truth through our actions."

- Stacey Abrams

Voting is a fundamental act of civic participation through which people contribute to democracy. While it’s one of many ways forms that youth engagement can take, it is a powerful way for youth to make their voices heard and to have an impact on issues that affect them and their communities. Their votes can be influential and even decisive. And, because elections happen everywhere, they are universal and frequent opportunities for civic learning and engagement that can also serve as entry points to other forms of participation.

As we draw closer to the 2020 election, it's a great time to understand why local and national politics matter and the core principles on how our democracy and elections works. What is going on with voting rights? Who makes up a political party? What is the electoral college? What is gerrymandering? Why aren't young people voting as much? And how can we strengthen our democracy?



  • Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters – Get the details on voting by mail, drop-off sites, and early voting hours and locations. Several drop-off and early voting sites are San José Public Library locations, so you can pick up your library items at the same time!
  • The League of Women Voters Education Fund – Website of the nonpartisan League of Women Voters Education Fund that works to register voters, provide voters with election information through voter guides as well as candidate forums and debates.
  • California Voter Foundation – The California Voter Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working through research, oversight, outreach and demonstration projects to improve the election process so that it better serves the needs and interests of voters.



For Educators

This toolkit is just a framework for facilitating an SJ Engage Circle.

Sample Discussion Questions

  1. Why don’t more people vote in the United States? What factors keep people out of the electoral process?
  2. Why don’t young people vote at higher rates? What factors are unique to young people’s experiences that make them less likely to participate in elections?Or to ask the question differently, why are older citizens so comparatively active in politics?
  3. What are the advantages of allowing voters to vote early or using absentee ballots? What are the disadvantages? Why might a state choose to have early voting or use absentee ballots? Why might a state not have such policies?
  4. Do you think citizens have a responsibility to vote?
  5. Do you believe our election outcomes would be different with substantially higher voter turnout? How so?


Common Core: ELA Writing

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards: Diversity

  • DI.9-12.6 – I interact comfortably and respectfully with all people, whether they are similar to or different from me.


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This project has been made possible in part by a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation.

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