It’s been 100 years since most American women have gained the right to vote. The League of Women Voters is a civic, non-partisan organization taking advantage of that right.
Pam Kirchen has been working with the League of Women Voters and with Community High School (CHS) for three years. She’s been helping seniors register to vote and spreading the word that teenagers are capable of making change.
“You guys are the future,” Kirchen said. “When all of us old people die, you guys will be there, and it’s gonna be far more diverse, far more educated in terms of what our rights and responsibilities are around voting.”
That’s why, once a year, students aged 17 and a half or older are invited to the Craft Theatre at CHS to register to vote.
“It’s a feel-good activity and kids walk out of there excited,” Kirchen said. “I think it’s a rite of passage to learn how to register to vote and make it simple.”
However, this year is different. Because of the pandemic, CHS can’t have students come to the theater to register. Kirchen really misses seeing students’ faces as they register to vote. She even has nightmares about students being in the dark about the process. But she hasn’t given up. Instead, she has been collaborating with two CHS seniors, Grace Thomas and Sophie Fetter, to help spread the word to register to vote.
Thomas started working with Kirchen last spring. So far, the League of Women Voters has provided CHS with informational videos and step-by-step instructions on how to register to vote.
“We’re just trying to get the word out that voting’s really important and that it’s really easy to register,” Thomas said. “We want to make sure that everybody knows what they’re supposed to do.”
Like Thomas, Fetter started working with the group because she wanted to help make change. To her, voting is important because it allows voices to be heard.
“A youth perspective is just so important, especially with a lot of the issues facing today like climate change and the coronavirus,” Fetter said.
Thomas, Fetter and Kirchen all agree that voting is crucial when it comes to healthcare. Kirchen believes that access to healthcare is the most important thing to be decided in this election, and that if one candidate is chosen, people could lose their healthcare.
“My friend, Becky, had to go to her doctor to get a COVID-19 test,” Kirchen said. “I went, because I have really good insurance. She has really bad insurance. And so it took me 24 hours to get my results back. Probably because I had better insurance, and it took her like 10 days to figure it out.”
Kirchen worries that this information isn’t very helpful for teens under age 17. But Kirchen wants to make it known that there are other steps to take to help make change. She suggests that students can make cold calls to Debbie Stabenow, United States Senator from Michigan, or Debbie Dingell, Michigan’s representative.
Fetter has some other suggestions for teenagers desperate to make change: become a poll worker and contact Pam Kirchen. Fetter was a poll worker in a previous election.
“It’s a good thing to put on your college applications, and it’s also just a good way to help democracy,” Fetter said.
She also says that she learned so much more about the voting process. And the cherry on top: poll workers get paid for training and for the actual day. To become a poll worker, scan the QR code.