Reaching out to young voters

Graphic Young Voters Beatexasvoter.org
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News

Two years ago, the Dallas County Community College District and the League of Women Voters started a project with one goal in mind: to produce a series of videos that would reach young voters. The “Be a Texas Voter” Project was launched this summer to engage, educate and empower these young voters.

With less than three weeks left until the mid-term elections, K-12 teachers and higher education faculty members have been using the four-to-five-minute videos in class with students, according to Michael Coleman, the series producer who works at DCCCD’s LeCroy Center, where the six modules were produced. Government faculty members across the district shared their input and expertise as the project moved forward.

“The League of Women Voters contacted the DCCCD LeCroy Center in the summer of 2016, asking for help to develop an important project that would engage non-voters in the electoral process,” said Dr. Pam Quinn, now-retired provost at the center. 

“With an eye toward helping community organizations as well as DCCCD students, Dr. Quinn contacted government faculty member Kathy Yates, who polled other faculty members in that field across our district,” said Coleman. “Those faculty members indicated they wanted to use the videos in their own classes as well as share them through the League of Women Voters. That’s when the project began moving forward.”

Reaching out to young voters

Coleman and other DCCCD staffers at LeCroy based their videos on extensive research done by the League of Women Voters, which had shown that the biggest obstacles to voting voiced by young people included these ideas:

  • They didn’t know anything about the candidates or the issues.
  • They didn’t know where to vote or when.
  • They didn’t know there was an election.
  • They didn’t think their vote mattered.

“Using this information, we wanted to produce several short videos that would engage, educate and empower young voters,” said Coleman. “We collaborated closely with the League, and our instructional designers at LeCroy developed a six-module structure which became the backbone for the project.”

Those six modules are titled:

  • Why Should I Vote?
  • Does My Vote Matter?
  • How Do I Register to Vote?
  • What Am I Voting For?
  • Where Do I Find Information?
  • When and Where Do I Vote?

The videos, said Coleman, appeal emotionally to a young audience. The team shot footage at two DCCCD colleges – Richland and El Centro – featuring student interviews; animated shots in the second half of each module; and a “guide” who talks to viewers.  Each video raises questions and issues that can be explored using lesson plans that are provided and which include classroom discussion topics, activities and supplemental reading.

Janice Christophel, an instructional designer at LeCroy, worked closely with Elizabeth Walley, vice president of voter outreach for LWV of Dallas, who served as a content advisor and first-level reviewer. Many DCCCD employees at LeCroy were involved in various aspects of the project as well.

The entire production process took nine months, according to Coleman, and the modules were released to interested K-12 teachers as well as community college faculty members throughout the Dallas area and other parts of Texas.

Time to vote

As the 2018 mid-term elections loom, eight million more young voters across the U.S. are eligible to cast their first ballot than in 2016. With the help of the DCCCD/LWV “Be a Texas Voter” Project, more voters can go to the polls, prepared to cast their ballots. 

Walley, LWV Dallas voter outreach vice president, said, “We’ve reached out to several (school) districts in the area and plan to work with all of them. We also are reaching out to government and political science faculty members at area community colleges, and we are expanding to other areas of the state as well so that we can share the ‘Be a Texas Voter’ Project this fall.”

Walley added, “The lessons address elections at all levels, and they should be presented every semester in classrooms because students change every semester, too. And it’s important for every student to understand how our democracy works." 

Javier Olguin, administrator at Eastfield College’s Pleasant Grove campus and member of the Southeast Dallas Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, is excited about the modules.

“The ‘Be a Texas Voter’ series is excellent,” he said. “It features great videos, activities and resources – all online. I’m passing along this series to students, faculty and community members. And it was developed according to Texas Education Association and Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board rules.”

Coleman added that United Way of Metropolitan Dallas posted all six “Be a Texas Voter” videos on Facebook and Twitter during the primary and general elections this year as part of its “Go Big, Go Vote” campaign. 

“The educational series helps young people to better understand their role as citizens in our state through voting,” said Grace Chimene, president-elect of LWV’s statewide organization. 

She added, “It’s well known that voter turnout in Texas, compared to other states, is always at or near the bottom. Because voter turnout is a measure of overall civic health, it is vitally important that we all do what we can to improve Texans’ understanding of the process and our rights and responsibilities so that citizens feel encouraged and prepared to participate.”

Anyone can view and share the educational voter series at www.beatexasvoter.org.

 

 

 
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