Engaging Educators and Families on #NationalVoterRegistrationDay
To describe something as a “national holiday celebrating our democracy” is to conjure up images of fireworks, flags, and backyard barbecues. But today is a national holiday celebrating our democracy, and there are no fireworks in sight. Today, we have forms. We have flyers. We have portals and pledges; we have stickers and sign-up booths. Today, we celebrate the right and responsibility to vote. Today is National Voter Registration Day.
NAEYC, together with our Affiliate network, has been working all year, as a premier partner of NVRD, to elevate and engage early childhood educators in this year’s midterm elections. We believe that all candidates, on both sides of the aisle, can embrace high-quality early childhood education, and we’re here to empower educators and parents to help them do so!
That’s why we created the "Our Votes. Their Futures." campaign, and the limited edition America for Early Ed To Go Boxes, which Affiliate leaders throughout the country are using today and in the coming weeks as part of the movement of early childhood educators and parents standing together to make sure #ECEwins in 2018 and beyond! (Want a box of your own? The last day to order is this Sunday, September 30, so get ‘em before they’re gone!)
To help us celebrate this important national holiday, we asked just a few Affiliate leaders to share their thoughts on getting started, getting creative, and why all of this matters so much.
With so much happening, how do you help educators and families become engaged voters?
“We tried to do something creative, and that’s when we came up with our Get Out the Vote Contest. It’s not about who is the best, but it is about getting as many people as possible to find ways to get out the vote. We gave people ideas about types of events they could host, or activities they could do, and then we asked them to post pictures of them doing their work! Everyone who sends us a picture will be entered into a drawing to “win” a gift card - but really, everyone's a winner in this contest!” - Jen DeBell, Pennsylvania AEYC
“When I went to our state’s board and leadership retreat, it was my first time meeting the chapter leaders face to face. I wondered if my electoral advocacy asks might feel like just another thing to add to already stressful lives. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The excitement in the room was electric as we spoke about our plans leading up to the midterms, 2020, and beyond. Chapter leaders took turns sharing their experiences with candidates coming to programs and highlighting voter registration in their fall newsletters. It’s a real joy to be a part of a group that is ready to seize the moment to center early education and early childhood educators.” - Katie Albitz, New York AEYC
Excitement is great, especially because it can help people overcome feelings of being overwhelmed. What do you use to help people take that first step from excitement to action?
“We love the “Our. Votes. Their Futures.” resources! We pulled out our favorites and put together an “advocacy toolkit” to hand out to advocates in training at all our recent events. Included in the toolkits: GOTV activities for nonprofits, Election Day activities, building relationships with candidates, America for Early Ed flyer, and state policy priorities. Information overload? Maybe. But we want to make sure that all early childhood educators in Oregon are equipped with the tools and resources to make informed decisions that will brighten the future for children and families.” - Alli Bannan, Oregon AEYC
How have you used what you’re already doing as a jumping off point?
“Rhode Island held our second annual Advocacy Day this year. We used this opportunity for professional development to inspire civic engagement and NonprofitVOTE held a breakout session for participants interested in holding voter registration drives at their centers." - Angela Ortiz, Rhode Island AEYC
“Our conference will occur during the last weekend that you can register to vote in South Carolina, so we will have a big push to get people to register to vote at the conference. We will have an advocacy session and we have created advocacy toolkits from our To Go Boxes. There will be lots of social media posts with our signs from our To Go Boxes. We love the To Go Boxes! We also will have a screening of No Small Matter at our conference, with opportunities to register to vote immediately following the screening, as well as a chance to fill out a “I pledge to vote” card and snap a photo with participants and their pledges.” - Sally McClellan and Meredith Burton, South Carolina AEYC
Sounds fun! Is it?
“The America for Early Ed To-Go box actually is a fun way to spark conversation and engage members on a personal level on electoral advocacy. I also think it’s empowering to see that if we as an early education community each commit to a handful of small things, such as voting or calling our elected officials, we can make a huge difference.” - Katie Albitz, New York AEYC
“It’s cool. Actually, the coolest thing I’ve done this year on electoral advocacy was to vote in our primary election. I didn’t do this in 2014, but I realized that I was passionate about candidates in the primaries in smaller races, like Lieutenant Governor. I reminded friends and family about primary day, and I posted to my Instagram story when I voted.” - Alyson Panzarella, Rhode Island AEYC
Building a community of engaged educators, parents, and allies is really important. How else have you personally helped make this happen?
“I planned a National Voter Registration Day event at the university where I teach, with students from my class, who will pass out material and get other students to register to vote!” - Sally McClellan, South Carolina AEYC
“I offered rides to local friends to the primary polling places.” - Kayla Arruda, Rhode Island AEYC
The election is still over a month away. What’s the rush to get everyone registered now?
“In Pennsylvania, we can only register voters through October 9. I don’t think everyone realizes how soon that is. We don’t have until Election Day to get everyone ready to vote, so we are really focused on helping people recognize now how important their vote is, and how much it matters.” - Jen DeBell, PennAEYC
So why does all of this matter?
“We see a great need to help childcare professionals and parents understand that their votes matter and that they can have a voice in the electoral process.” - Meredith Burton, South Carolina AEYC
“We are encouraging early childhood educators to do their research, engage with candidates, and vote for children and families on November 6th.” - Alli Bannan, Oregon AEYC
“Because each and every vote is important.” - Katie Albitz, New York AEYC
Each and every vote is important. That means yours - so if you haven’t registered to vote: do it. If you haven’t pledged to vote: do it. If you haven’t talked to all of your family, friends, colleagues, staff, students and parents about voting, well, there’s no time like today!
Happy #NationalVoterRegistrationDay, to you.
Lauren Hogan is the managing director of policy and professional advancement for NAEYC, in Washington, DC.