How to Be Involved in Politics When You’re Not Old Enough to Vote

High school is a good time to start learning about the issues facing our nation.

Many NYHS students feel their political opinions aren’t valued because they don’t have the opportunity to vote yet. In the 2024 presidential election, though, every current NYHS student will be able to vote. Even for students under 18, now’s the time to start learning about the issues and even getting involved. 

“Nowadays, Gen-Z is a lot more political, and we share our opinions more often than before,” says NYHS freshman Hadassah Grossman. However, according to the UN Secretary-General’s envoy on youth, nearly half the global population is under the age of 30, but political decision making is geared toward older adults. Many local and national organizations are focusing on the youth vote to get them involved in the future. Yet it can be hard to know where to start and what to support. 

“I think one of the most important things is finding a focus area, where you feel like, ‘This is something that I’m really passionate about and I want to get engaged in,’” says Max Patashnik, Director of Government and Community Relations at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. One way to do this is to get involved with the Federation. Every year, the Federation has a lobby day, where a delegation of Jewish community members goes down to Olympia to meet with senators to lobby for a set of Jewish community priorities. High school students are encouraged to join. 

For teens looking to commit larger amounts of time, the Senate Page program allows you to work in Olympia for a week. You can help with committee hearings, where the House and the Senate pass bills. “This is such an extraordinary chance to be right on edge of the action,” Patashnik, who participated in this program, said. “You have exclusive access to places only some senators and legislators can go to and have lunch with the legislators.” The selective program is open to applicants ages 14-16, and it pays.  

Several Seattle city-based programs encourage youth involvement. The Seattle Youth Commission requires an application, but if you get in, it is a unique way to support the issues that matter to you. The organization consists of 15 kids between the ages of 13 and 19 who help connect the youth of Seattle with city government. They plan events, work with other youth commissioners and help the mayor and the city council. Similarly, Washington Bus is an organization geared toward young people to get them to be more politically engaged. They have a lot of high school events often and they run many programs for high school aged students to get involved in. 

AIPAC is focused on the Israel and American political relationship. NYHS junior Eliana Menashe attended the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, DC, in 2020 and came away feeling inspired. She liked that the talks emphasized being bipartisan and just striving to help Israel through American government, she said. 

“The best way to learn about these issues, I believe, is to familiarize yourself by reading,” Says Carol Mirkin, NYHS alumna and AIPAC Early Engagement Field Organizer. She also suggests reading just one news article a day about something you find interesting. Over time you will be more informed and accumulate lots of knowledge.

If you’re not properly educated, you can’t understand the issues to the fullest extent, said Avi Kinzter, who agrees with the importance of reading the news often. Kinzter, the only student at NYHS who is old enough to vote, said that to help you decide on who to vote for, the state will give you a voter pamphlet. The Seattle Times op-ed page includes information on ballot measures and voting issues, as a start. If you are 16 or older you can preregister to vote in Washington. When you turn 18, you automatically get a ballot sent to your house. 

“In this era, politics is now based around the future — which means kids,” says NYHS freshman Josh Benezra. At NYHS at least, the future of youth engagement looks bright — the vast majority of students interviewed said they look forward to registering to vote. Sophomore Emma Almo said, “I am excited to vote, because I can make a difference in my country.”

 

Learn more:

Page Program

Seattle Youth Commission

Washington Bus

AIPAC

Register to vote