Youth-led and youth-driven, 18by.Vote is a non-partisan organization in the United States that aims to help 16, 17, and 18-year-olds understand how, when, and why to vote. They empower teenagers in civic deserts to spearhead civic engagement in their own communities, by increasing voter participation among the youngest eligible voters through voter registration, pre-registration, and civic education programming. As a reaction to perceptions of civic work by youth as “volunteer opportunities," they seek to reduce socio-economic barriers to civic engagement by providing financial compensation to their fellows; eighty-five percent of their budget goes directly to supporting the civic vision of young leaders. The organization relies heavily on digital technology both to reach Gen Z teens as well as crowdfund from supporters. By focusing efforts on underserved, rural communities, they reach young voters that are typically overlooked by national organizations.
18by.vote trained Civic Engagement Fellows on the changes to voting requirements and processes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. With this training, Fellows were then able to disseminate information to their communities through online and in-person information drives to help people vote despite of COVID-19. 18by.vote also released a social media ‘infographic’ on “Voting During COVID-19”.
Theory of Change
Voting is a learned behavior, and youth are most likely to respond to peer-to-peer engagement by other youth, aided by continued empowerment and education through online media, which is especially important given the primacy of digital technologies for Gen Z.
18by.Vote’s program reaches teens through their preferred communications tools, social media, chatbots, and SMS platforms. In 2020, 18by.vote launched their inaugural Civic Engagement Fellowship, which consists of 22 young people, ranging from ages 14-19 years old and hailing from 11 different states across the US. 88% of Fellows identify as people of color, coming from Native American, Hispanic/Latinx, Black, and Asian communities. 18by.vote provides fellows with civic tech tools, basic civics education, and social media marketing skills to then use in their communities to reach local young people.
In 2018, 18by.Vote was profiled by national media for their peer-to-peer model, making it “cool to vote” among young people. In areas where 18by.vote implemented programs, new voters aged 17 to 29 account for 46% of the total new registered voters prior to the 2018 election. Ahead of the 2020 election cycle, 18by.Vote Fellows have, to date reached an audience of 24,000 social media users across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc.