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Idaho Org Registering, Encouraging Young People to Vote

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Young people, ages 18 to 25, will make up 40% of Idaho's voting population in the November election. (kgroovy/Flickr)
Young people, ages 18 to 25, will make up 40% of Idaho's voting population in the November election. (kgroovy/Flickr)
May 18, 2020

BOISE, Idaho -- A group in Idaho that is registering young people to vote wants to motivate them to the polls.

What The Vote Idaho has registered more than 5,000 18 to 25-year-olds in Boise.

Nancy Viano, one of the group's co-founders, says volunteers make presentations and register voters in an appropriate place: senior high schoolers' government classes. But her group understands that seniors likely are more concerned with prom or graduation.

"So we try to bring it home to them down to special things that would affect them in their life," she points out.

Viano says that might be access to public lands or the minimum wage for young people entering the workforce. She says another successful component of her organization's work is engaging student advisory councils.

However, COVID-19 could put a wrench in the group's fall plans. The group says it might have to engage students virtually. What the Vote Idaho is a nonpartisan group sponsored by the American Association of University Women Boise Area Branch.

What The Vote Idaho's other co-founder, Chris Stokes, says some young people feel satisfied after they register to vote.

"One gal handed us her registration card and she says, 'God, now I feel like an adult,'" Stokes relates. "And I mean, we went away that day exhausted but absolutely determined. We need to reach out to these kids. They are the future."

Stokes emphasizes to youths that they are a big swath of the electorate: 40% of the voting population in November is younger than 25. But in Idaho's 2019 elections, only 12% of people under 25 voted.

Stokes maintains this project can be replicated in other parts of Idaho, noting the organization started off as three people.

"We now have over 100 volunteers who really like this project and are very passionate about getting young people engaged," she states. "So I don't think it would be hard if other communities wanted to start something like this, to recruit people that are on the same page."

The Idaho primary was scheduled for Tuesday. That is now the deadline to request an absentee ballot. Votes for the state's first all-mail election must be received by June 2.

Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID