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Open Letter from OCA on Registering Youth to Vote in 2004

Dear OCA Network Member,

Given the recent USDA attack on organic standards, not to mention the other, even more serious, crises in the U.S. and the world, the OCA is exploring ways our members can increase voter participation in the 2004 elections, both by organic consumers and youth. In 2000 only 51% of potential voters showed up at the polls. As part of OCA’s new focus on promoting voter registration, we would especially like to focus on young voters.


A strategic segment of non-registered voters are high school students and recent graduates. Sadly, according to statistics, recent high school graduates are the least likely to vote. But of course our public school system has a mandate to provide America with an educated electorate. The real world, high stakes test of "Do our graduates vote?" gives our system a failing grade. However, with a bit of effort we can help change this pattern dramatically. OCA’s nationwide network of 500,000 organic consumers includes several thousand health and environmentally-conscious high school students, plus many more parents or grandparents who have children who are recent graduates or attend high schools. We as a national network can be a catalyst for change. Here are three practical suggestions that will be good for our school system, good for young people, and good for the upcoming election.

1. Encourage high schools to hand out voter registration cards with diplomas. Write a note or give a call to the principal of your local high school. Offer to provide the voter registration cards if you are able.


2. Work with schools and community members to set up voter registration days at local high schools. Arrange with your local high school to come during lunch or after school to help kids register to vote. The League of Women Voters and the Secretary of State provide information about voter registration.

3. Encourage high school teachers to take a class period, initiate a dialogue on voting and acquaint students with how to register to vote. Carry It Forward! a multi-media project honoring the legacy of Paul and Sheila Wellstone has produced a 5-minute voter mobilization video targeting first time voters. Go to http://www.carryitforward.org/votefilm.html to view and order a $10.00 copy of VOTE! and to download the companion materials prepared to support teachers and others interested in carrying out lessons on voter registration and voting.

"VOTE!" is a short, energetic film that brings to light the wisdom behind youth civic involvement. In quick, urban beat style, the short features the late Paul Wellstone, John Lewis, Al Franken, and a host of young activists interested in voting. It is fundamental that young and first time voters know their rights and responsibilities as citizens. Join in increasing civic education, participation and developing responsible citizenry who are actively engaged.

What could be more important than helping youth recognize that their voice is needed in our political dialog?

Thank you in advance for helping organic consumers and high school youth get educated on the issues and registered to vote.

For the OCA,

Ronnie Cummins
National Director
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