“You gain strength courage and confidence each time we look fear in the face, we must do the things we think we cannot do.”
Eleanor Roosevelt hoped citizens and young activists like Jake Levin would have the courage to ask legislators and the Governor of Massachusetts to champion youth voting and civic education while sadly other young career politicians cower or remain silent. I am proud to introduce to the Massachusetts legislature and to the citizens of Massachusetts, Jake Levin. I met Jake at a young dem meeting at UMASS Amherst early this spring. I was invited to introduce our Help Youth Vote! www.YDMA.org legislative effort. Jake, a junior high school student is inspired by the premise of the legislation and grass/net roots campaign. After the meeting, Jake reached out to me immediately. Excited and eager to get involved, Jake engaged in recruiting the support of his fellow residents and his State Representative Denise Andrews. In response, Representative Andrews met Jake in the district (see below photo) to discuss the passage of the bills. Andrews commitment and promise to help with the passage is enough for me and for Jake to press on. As citizens we have the collective political power to affect change. Lets use it to make history here and now. Lead the nation by passing the first comprehensive youth voter civic bill(s).
The timely www.rock the vote shameful report card ranking Massachusetts as one of the poorest performing states for youth voter registration should shame us into solving this threat to our quest to establish a true democracy. Sharing Jake’s letter to facebook friends and Blue Mass Group readers. I hope you are inspired by Jakes actions and words too.
Please ask Governor Patrick, the leadership, and your representatives to publicly support this effort, and help with the passage of all pending youth voter bills today. You can sign the www.ydma.org petition today and join the effort by contacting me, email@example.com. Our Help Youth Vote! campaign begins today. Please thank the Young Democrats of Massachusetts for their leadership, support and ongoing effort to help young voters vote and learn why voting matters in every election.
Below Letter by Jake Levin on Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The Honorable Barry Finegold and Michael Moran
Joint Committee on Election Laws
Re: Support for proposed amendment to S00299, H00192 and S00302
Chairmen and Members of the Committee:
It is with great enthusiasm, I submit this testimony in support of the proposed amendment entitled, An Act Relative to Youth Voter Registration, Civic Education, and Civic Engagement (to amend bill S00299 Act Relative to Voter Registration), H00192 and S00302 all relative to youth election laws in the Commonwealth. As a student at Pioneer Valley Regional School I am very active in student government as well as in my local chapter of Young Democrats; it is clear that I would support these historic pieces of legislation. However, I present my testimony this afternoon not for myself or other likeminded students who are involved in their communities and are aware of the issues, but for my peers who are uninvolved and uninformed about the significance of the ballot in every election.
Coming from a rather isolated school in Western Massachusetts, it is easy for me to look around my school and see students who aren’t aware of the issues our community faces or couldn’t name those that hold local office. This lack of awareness does not come about because these students aren’t interested or don’t care, it arises because of the lack of opportunities presented to get involved and from the little importance currently placed on civic involvement in our high schools. Being in an environment where I see these students everyday and know them well I strongly believe that holding these voter registration drives and civic education seminars would not only stimulate interest in the political system, but would launch a generation of informed, empowered and active students. Along with my support for this amendment to S00299 I also fully support bill H00192, An Act Relative to Age Requirements in Local Elections. Because the majority of juniors and seniors in Massachusetts’s high schools are 17, I believe that the proposed amendment to S00299 and H00192 would prove most effective if these students were given the ballot in municipal elections. The decisions that local elected officials make often directly affect students, therefore I think that lowering the voting age for local elections would act as a catalyst for students to get involved in local politics. I am positive that having a say in local elections would be most inciting in getting students involved. A generation of educated students that care about their communities and are informed enough to get involved at an early age is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. The earlier we start educating these students on their civic duties, the earlier we will begin to see students taking an interest in the world around them and making well informed decisions.
As a seventeen year old, it was not that long ago that I was waiting in line at my local RMV to get my permit. Nearly every single student that I know applied for their permit shortly after turning sixteen, however the number of students I know who register to vote once turning eighteen falls short. Giving students the opportunity to pre-register when applying for their permit is a terrific idea that vastly improves the accessibility of voter registration, and will help to make voter registration commonplace among high school students. Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy; this RMV system of preregistration would help to stimulate community involvement at a young age while simultaneously helping young people exercise their civic rights. Furthermore, expanding the pre-registration system does not go far enough to help students learn why voting matters or provides civic education exercises or civic engagement opportunities. That is why I strongly urge the committee and Governor Patrick to seize this opportunity to support and help pass these needed youth voter and civic education bills.
Massachusetts can lead the way for other states to follow this great work.
Thank you for this opportunity to testify in strong support of the proposed amendment to bill S00299, bill and bill S00302.