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Kayje Booker

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Colorful Proof That Young People Give a Sh*t

Posted: 09/25/2012 11:16 am

Hello, friends. I speak to you today a leader of bunnies; we are pink, and we are legion.

Here in Montana, the Pink Bunnies of Forward Montana Foundation register young people to vote, 10,000 and counting so far this year. We've hopped all around Big Sky Country (all 147,046 square miles) spreading democracy, and our gigantic ears have wiggled for joy at what we have heard from the young folks: they are engaged and passionate and ready to exercise their right to vote.

So while I've heard the rumors that young people are going to sit this election out, that they are disaffected and unenthusiastic, after personally registering a couple thousand of them to vote in the last six months, I feel confident in saying that those rumors are false. When we pull out our voter registration signs and clipboards on campuses around the state, we're mobbed by students who want to make sure that they've done everything they need to in order to vote this fall. We've talked to young people in their high school and college classes, in their dining halls, at concerts and football games - they know how important this election is, and they are excited to have their voice heard.

In fact, they're so passionate about making sure young people show up in this election that they are out there right now registering each other to vote! Hundreds of them across Montana have been pounding the pavement in Pink Bunny attire to make sure their friends, frenemies, roommates, distant cousins, and casual acquaintances are all current on their voter registration. Hundreds more will be out in October to ensure that those same people vote this fall. Here at Forward Montana Foundation, our high school and college-age interns have put in thousands of hours, braving blizzards, extreme heat, and everything in between to register other young people to vote. Their commitment is inspiring and offers a tiny glimpse of the potential that passionate young people have to reinvigorate our democracy.

These efforts are all part of a movement towards peer-to-peer, costume-based efforts at civic engagement. The response has been phenomenal; given the opportunity to take democracy and run with it, young people are doing fantastically innovative, unexpected, and thoughtful work to promote civic engagement to their peers. Facebook memes, online "social ballots," jump-roping robots, and ninja pirate bunnies are just some of the ways that young folks are reaching out to each other to encourage them to get involved in their democracy.

These non-traditional voter registration efforts are culminating in National Voter Registration Day, a massive effort across the country to involve businesses, community-based organizations, and other groups who usually don't participate in this kind of thing. We are hoping to show people throughout the country that being a registered voter is an expectation that every single one of us should have for ourselves and for each other. We should be able to say, as we do at our organization, "Every bunny is doing it."

In fact, I'm proud to say that while some states are making it harder for people to vote this fall, here in Montana we have dozens of organizations hard at work to ensure that every eligible citizen is able to cast a ballot. In our work alone, our organization, Forward Montana Foundation, has increased the size of the electorate by 1.5%, and we are just one of many organizations similarly committed to the task of engaging our citizens in the democratic process. We've had key support in these efforts from both sides of the aisle, with everyone from a small town Democratic Mayor to a former Republican State Senator out there in Pink Bunny costumes to register voters.

It's certainly an exciting time to be a Pink Bunny in Montana, and we're eager to see the results of this work come November 6th. Whatever the results, we'll know that many more people will have spoken and that the voices of young people will have been an important part of the conversation.

 
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