November 11 — 2:23 pm, 2011

SLA students attend Why Tuesday? kickoff

This guest blog post comes from Sam Lovett-Perkins, a student at the Science Leadership Academy.

This week 34 juniors and seniors from Science Leadership Academy traveled to the Newseum in Washington, D.C. to attend the 2012 kick-off event for Why Tuesday? The event explored the importance of voter turnout and the current flaws in our voting system.

Why Tuesday? is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization founded in 2005, the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Executive Director Jacob Soboroff started his research for the organization by asking the simple question “Why do we vote on Tuesday?”

Although many of us are not yet of voting age, SLA students were invited because of similarities between the event and what we are learning in class about political participation in voting systems.

The event’s panel discussion started by pointing out current laws that make voting harder. The panel shared plans for how Why Tuesday? could improve voter turnout. Suggestions spanned from moving the voting day to making voting registration electronic.

The panelists also responded to general questions about how to increase voter turnout. Panelists included:

  • Mimi Marziani, counsel at the Brennan Center,

  • Meghan McCain, daughter of Senator John McCain and advisory board member of Why Tuesday?,

  • William J. Wachtel, co-founder, Why Tuesday?,

  • Norman J. Ornstein, co-founder, Why Tuesday? and resident scholar at the American Enterpirse Institute,

  • David Becker, the Director of Election Initiatives at Pew, and
  • Jacob Soboroff, executive director of Why Tuesday?

The event also included screening of a video explaining the goals of the organization and short clips of leading politicians answering the question "why do we vote on Tuesday?" 

One memorable video response came from former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He said that to keep voting up around the country, “just make it exciting, make it spicy, do unusual things, make it entertaining.”

At the end the panel, the discussion turned to the question of what young people can do to feel like they are a part of a process. Responses from all four of the panelists encouraged young people to volunteer at a polling place to better understand the voting process and to get involved in helping raise awareness and support for issues young people care about.

These ideas are not new to SLA juniors, who are required to participate in an Election Day project. For the project, students go to the polls and interview voters about why they voted, how much they know about the voting process, and what they want to come out of the election.

SLA senior Julia Boyer, who did this project last year recalled, “I liked it, I got to go out and talk to people and ask what they thought and why they voted, overall just getting an understanding from the public.”

Students can record responses with any medium whether it is a camera, audio recorder, or a pen and paper. Then they share what information they’ve found with their fellow students in class.

The event in D.C. also launched the organization’s new website and jump-started Why Tuesday’s 2012 Candidate Challenge, which asks candidates to send in video responses to questions about whether the American voting system is broken and how it can be fixed.

Sabrina Stewart-McDonald, a SLA junior who attended the Why Tuesday? kickoff, reflected, “I gained a realization of how many different things can affect how a person votes, who votes, and how simple changes can limit voting for so many people.”

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