Young people, go to the ballot boxes!
Taking matters into one's own hands does not have to mean founding a political party. That can wait. Initially, it is enough to try to reason with one's peers to make them understand the aim of elections and why they are worth participating in. Do not worry, this is not about tedious talks, school assemblies and declamation contests with poems singing the praises of the advantages of ballot boxes. Students from Kędzierzyn Koźle promoted participating in elections by dancing and singing in the streets of the town. In Gorzów young people carried out a street survey and in Toruń upper secondary school students set up a platform for online blogs. That's more like it, isn't it?
Public campaigns encouraging participation in elections are just one of a lot of ideas. You can organise a school debate with the participation of experts just as well, or run workshops on the subject of the elections statute or MPs' duties. All kinds of simulations are another great idea – above all election simulations. Do you know the saying: “tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand”? This works perfectly well in the case of election simulations at school. You and your peers will be able to see for yourselves what the work of electoral commissions looks like, what has to be included in ballot papers and why they should never be counted solely by politicians. You will taste the sweetness of victory and the bitterness of defeat.
You do not have to organise school campaigns, workshops and elections on your own. There are organisations and institutions active for a number of years which can help you with this. The Centre for Citizenship Education, organising the programme “Young people vote” for almost two decades, is one of them. Although the organisation of an event at school will be mainly your task, the Centre will give you a raft of helpful materials, among other things handbooks, posters and informational brochures. Your teachers will be able to count on assistance as well – they will find scenarios for lessons on elections and the European Parliament and lots of other educational material on the webpage of the Centre. You will be able to showcase your achievements on a special online platform – that is where you can look for inspiration for your activities.
The Programme “Young people vote” has been organised since as early as 1995. It accompanies all elections and state referenda. It is usually activated two or three months before elections. Schools wishing to participate in the contest may be referred both by teachers and students (the headmaster's consent is required in both cases). School elections, usually organised one week before the real thing, are the crowning achievement of the campaign.
So far 2,500,000 persons have taken part in various projects organised as part of the programme “Young people vote”. 1072 schools participated, and over 200,000 students voted in the 2011 youth parliament elections.