The presentation started with an example of government making a difference in a way that they would understand–my example was that a few years ago the local subway system was going to ban all amplified music on subway platforms, crippling the livelihood of a few dozen musicians. Then one state senator (Nobody asked, but it was Jarrett Barrios) took up their cause and his efforts resulted in a better policy.
Here’s the text of the handout I gave them–it’s a bit specific to Boston, but is easily modified. Feel free to use it, modify it, etc. Remember that, as a professor in a classroom, I could get in trouble for advocating supporting a specific candidate or party.
6 reasons to vote EVERY TIME
1) Voter quality numbers: It is public record whether you vote. Campaigns assign you a “voter quality number” based on how often you vote. People with high numbers get sent lots of information. People with low numbers are often completely ignored, so that someone who normally doesn’t vote might never even hear about an important race or ballot initiative.
2) Margins of victory matter. A good candidate who barely squeaks out a victory is more likely to face a serious challenge next time around than one who wins by a large margin. This also applies to citizen ballot initiatives–the legislature is more likely to tamper with one that has 51% support than one with 70% support.
3) Represent your demographic. As with neighborhoods, demographics (age, race, etc.) which vote a lot are better served. The elderly (who vote at the highest level) are a great example of this, where talk of cutting Social Security is a “third rail” that nobody touches, while programs for younger people are routinely slashed. Similarly, married people vote at higher rates than do single people, and many recent tax cuts have been targeted primarily or exclusively at married people.
4) Neighborhood services. Neighborhoods with high voter turnout regularly get better services from the local government than do neighborhoods which do not. Example: it took 30 years for the city to remove the annoying (unused) rails from Washington St. in Allston-Brighton–the Boston neighborhood with the lowest voter turnout, while high-turnout neighborhoods such has South Boston and the North End have historically been much better served.
5) Keep your registration active. Miss too many votes and your registration might be canceled. Then you show up to vote and are told you can’t!
6) If you don’t vote, people less intelligent than you decide who’s in charge.
How to decide whom to vote for:
You typically can’t get much information from 30-second TV advertisements. The best way to educate yourself is to look at websites of candidates or ballot initiatives–look particularly at their “on the issues” and their “endorsements” pages. If you lack time to research candidates yourself, find an individual or an organization which you trust and see whom they support.