(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
La Cañada High School

Opinion: Can’t vote yet? Here are five ways to make sure your voice is heard

With every headline in the news a glaring reminder of our country’s political turmoil and every passing conversation an echo of contentious issues, teenagers know one feeling all too well: frustration.

As we nervously watch representatives make decisions that will impact our futures, we have every right to be frustrated by the prospects of only having a voice once we can vote at 18.

Luckily, however, voting is not the only way to engage in democracy. So as teenagers, here are a few ways we can ensure our voices are heard.

1. Contact a representative

One of the most direct ways to influence the actions of our representatives is through communicating with them to express our concerns and opinions. Making phone calls, sending emails, submitting responses on a “contact us” page or even going old-school and handwriting letters are all excellent ways to contact our representatives.

Below is a great resource that details the steps for writing one of these advocacies:

https://www.asbmb.org/advocacy/toolkit/write-a-letter-to-your-legislator

You may be hesitant to write a letter or may even feel that politicians will be too busy to listen, but remember, it is their job to listen to you. Whether you’re writing to school board members, state senators or the president, your perspective is valuable!

In fact, sometimes representatives send back replies. A couple of years ago, a La Canada High School student wrote a letter to Kamala Harris and received a response! When enough people urge a representative to focus on a certain issue, they can truly influence action.

2. Attend student speak sessions and/or protests and marches

As many counties move into the yellow tier for COVID-19 and as guidelines are opening up to include gatherings, physically showing up somewhere or speaking in-person can be a powerful means of demonstrating your support (or opposition) to a topic.

There is unmatched energy that comes from advocating for your beliefs alongside other passionate individuals. And the presence of a gathering or crowd can mobilize our representatives to take action simply by seeing so many people support an action.

3. Talk to the people around you 

If you can’t attend protests or organized events, don’t worry. Engaging in honest conversations with family members and friends can be just as impactful.

For instance, our grandparents probably don’t share all of the same perspectives as us, so talking to them can not only help us learn and understand their beliefs, but it can also provide us an opportunity to explain our own. This is exactly the type of interaction that promotes a healthy democracy.

4. Dedicate your time to causes you believe in 

It’s no question that all of us teenagers are busy, so the organizations and causes we choose to allocate our time to can speak volumes to how important they are. Dedicating your time can look like a variety of implementations, all of which you can cater to your unique strengths and talents.

A couple of examples include volunteering at a particular organization in your community or joining a group to lobby for specific legislation.

5. Pre-register to vote

Last but certainly not least, if you are 16 years or older, you can pre-register to vote. You can do this at the DMV when you get your permit or driver’s license, but you can also do this online in under 10 minutes, using the website linked below.

https://registertovote.ca.gov

As soon as you turn 18, your registration will automatically become active and you won’t have to worry about registering to vote before your first election.

Using creative ways to speak out, communicate with our representatives, and support causes we believe in are just a few of the many ways to make democracy more accessible to all ages.