June 28, 2018
Texas Educators Vote Update
It takes more than just registering to vote…
“Be A Texas Voter” civics curriculum is here!
Last week’s update focused on the importance of registering to vote and making sure to register staff over the summer and students when school resumes in August. The importance of registering all eligible voters can’t be overstated. However, registering to vote alone does not ensure civic engagement. Statistics on Texas voting patterns found on the Texas Secretary of State’s website, show that while we are doing ok on voter registration, we have a real problem with voter turnout.
In the March 2018 primary election, 77% of voting age Texans were registered to vote. We celebrated higher than usual voter turnout of only 13% of Texas’s voting age population (17% of registered voters). You may wonder if that is a typo. Sadly, it is not! When they say Texas is last in voter turnout, they are not kidding around! We have room for serious improvement in voter turnout.
The League of Women Voters of Texas, one of our Texas Educators Vote partners, did some research on how to get voters to actually turn out and vote. Before the 2016 election, they and LULAC visited the 15 largest Dallas ISD high schools, sometimes repeatedly. Volunteers went to classrooms and conducted assemblies to register students who were eligible and interested in registering to vote. They also talked to the students about the voting process and why it is important to vote. At the same time, another group from Dallas County conducted voter registration drives, but did not share a message about how and why to vote. They compared voter turnout between the two groups and found significant differences in voter turnout.
The group of students who registered and also heard the message about how and why to vote turned out at a rate 26% higher than those who were only registered to vote. The lesson learned is that it is not enough to simply register people to vote, but if you help them understand the process and why voting is so important, they are much more likely to participate. Read the write-up of the High School Project, here.
The League of Women Voters didn’t just identify a problem. They also created a solution! Together with the Dallas Community Colleges, they developed an online civics curriculum called “Be A Texas Voter” which is aligned with the TEKS and is free and available to anyone who wants to use it. Please share this website with your staff, and encourage social studies teachers at all levels to make use of the curriculum if they find it helpful. They also have developed a PowerPoint presentation and other resources that you can use to explain the program to a group, in case you want to use it this summer in staff development. (Link to Resources page w/PowerPoint, etc.)
The important lesson they learned applies for any group – including staff, parents, and community members. I’m convinced that everyone cares about something. It could be public education, the environment, or any issue that calls to an individual. If each eligible voter aged 18 to 118 identified his or her priority, and learned which elected officials make decisions about that subject, researched the candidates, and then voted, we would have an engaged citizenry and a more robust democracy. By making sure that all Texas educators understand how and why it is important to vote, we will succeed in creating a culture of voting.
As a reminder, don’t tell people what or whom to vote for. But, please do use these resources to help students and staff understand that voting is how we make our voices heard on issues that are important to us and the future of our schools, communities, state, and nation. (link again to http://BeATexasVoter.org/)
Please also share the Texas Educators Vote website where staff and students can check their registration, apply to register to vote, find key dates and deadlines, and other important and helpful resources designed to create a culture of voting.
This work is so important and we appreciate your commitment to Texas children and to the future of the democracy they deserve!
Texas Educators Vote