ETHS students hold voter registration drives at basketball games


Daily file photo by Lauren Duquette.

Evanston Township High School, 1600 Dodge Ave.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Students at Evanston Township High School are bringing politics to a new arena: the basketball court.

At two basketball games in January — one on Jan. 10 and one on Jan. 17 — members of the ETHS Community Service Club registered students to vote in the 2020 primaries and general election. The initiative was led by the club’s Civic Engagement Committee, one of eight student-chaired committees within the group.

Previously, the club has held in-school voter registration drives, including a voter registration week last year, as well as a drive at a girls soccer game. The group partners with activist organizations in the area, such as Indivisible Evanston, to garner support for their efforts and become educated on the registration process.

Diana Balitaan, the club’s sponsor and adviser, said the entire initiative was student-proposed and student-led, which has been a key factor in the project’s effectiveness.

“They’re really driven, so they decide how many days they want to be out in our main lobby or during lunch periods or at the basketball games,” Balitaan said. “Voter registration forms (are) really easy, but it’s really easy to miss something. So it’s really awesome for them to have this partnership.”

With teen-led initiatives such as the March for Our Lives and worldwide climate strikes becoming more prevalent in the past few years, students across the globe have seen youth political activism spark national conversations, as these groups have brought their respective topics to the forefront of the discussion.

Louise Bond, a junior at ETHS and one of the student leaders for the Civic Engagement Committee, said ETHS students have learned the importance of activism and civic awareness, which has inspired many to get involved with the drives.

“There’s so many students who care about affordable housing, and advocacy for the climate crisis is huge right now,” Bond said. “One of the things we’ve done is writing to voters to remind them to vote, or calling elected officials and letting them know what we care about to really get that message across.”

However, although youth political participation is rising, teen voters still turn out at significantly lower rates than the general population. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, participation in the 2018 midterm elections for voters aged 18-29 increased by 16 percentage points from the 2014 midterms to approximately 36 percent, but this age group still lagged far behind others. The group with the second lowest turnout, voters aged 30-44, had an almost 49 percent participation rate in 2018.

Caroline Jacobs, an ETHS senior and the Community Service Club’s president, said this disparity is why she feels the club’s work is so important, as registration and awareness are key steps toward voting and political participation.

“When you look at national trends, young people aren’t coming out in the numbers that they should be,” Jacobs said. “Our interests aren’t being represented, and we’re not really able to actualize them if we’re not getting out and voting, so it’s important to be able to spread the word and get more young people out there.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1

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