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What We Can Learn From this First Time Voter

Girl Scout Claire Longcore has spent the last four years registering voters, long before she could cast her own ballot. Don’t let her down.

By Caitlin Abber

On the Friday before Labor Day, I called Claire Longcore, 18, and tried to make a bit of small talk. I remarked that there was a three-day weekend coming up, and she responded rather bluntly that she had lost all concept of time. Like many kids, Claire has spent the last six months at home, and she’s one-hundred percent over it.

Now preparing to enter her freshman year at the University of Washington, the Kirkland, WA native will be receiving some reprieve by moving into a dorm and living on campus, even though many of her classes will be online. Still, preparing for this new chapter has sort of played second fiddle to Claire’s bigger priority: getting as many people as possible registered to vote before the November election. It’s a project she’s worked on for the last four years as a Girl Scout, and in just a few weeks, not only will she head to the polls to cast her first vote, but hopefully, so will the more than one hundred people she helped register. (Claire is one of the inspiring Girl Scouts we’re talking to as part of our partnership with Girl Scouts).

“I was 14 during the 2016 election, and I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is going to have an effect on me.’ I was essentially a tween, but I was finally old enough to understand that the actions of other people at the local and national levels affect me and are going to affect the people around me, in addition to those in marginalized communities,” explained Claire. To register as many young people as possible, Claire set up voter registration drives at outdoor movies and farmer’s markets, as well as working with other young people to build a website for young people all about registering to vote. “Obviously, in 2016, I wasn’t quite old enough to vote yet, but there are programs in Washington that allow you to pre-register to vote at 16 and 17. I found that basically nobody had any idea about those kinds of programs. I wanted to find a way to make a difference and get people to register—and to show up to vote, which doesn’t always happen—and allow people to actually do their civic duty.”

Below, Claire explains how she managed to register over 100 voters, the issues she thinks are most important for her generation, and how anyone—literally anyone—can make a difference right now.

To learn about voter registration, I went to basically every resource I could think of. I went to the elections office in my county. I went to state government websites, I visited the local library to understand politics, and I got a job as a senate page in the Washington State Senate. I actually got to talk to state senators and state representatives—important people who make decisions that will affect me forever. I had kind of a celebrity shock, even though I didn’t know a lot of the people. But it turns out they are very much normal people with normal lives—they just happen to have a lot of power.

The most important issue for my generation is climate change, because it will last longer than all of us. I, as a young person, am growing up and seeing that we’re doing bad things to the planet. This is an issue that will affect literally everybody. It’s the planet, it’s the world we live on, and everybody should have a role in changing that. 

I wish that the older generation understood that yeah, we’re young—I’m 18. I just turned 18, and I don’t have a lot of world experience—but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have a say in the future of my generation and the generation that will come after me. We’re growing up in a world that is changing at every moment, and we can be far more involved in those changes, thanks to all the advances in technology that have happened during my lifetime. Young people want to be involved, and we want to be taken seriously, and there’s really no reason why we shouldn’t have a role in shaping the future.

Make yourself the example. I was not that old, but I got my voter registration in as soon as I could. I told everybody, ‘I’ve done this; come follow me.’ I set the example and made the logical argument. This is something everybody has a responsibility to do, and the statistics back up that there aren’t a lot of people who are actually registered to vote, and even fewer people return ballots…So take steps yourself, set an example, lead other people, and connect to as many people as you can so that you aren’t just a one-woman force out there. 

The Girl Scouts gave me the social skills and the leadership skills I needed to actually feel confident doing this project. I wasn’t really a social kid growing up, and Girl Scouts gave me a community for a really long stretch of time, and also access to people my age and adults who were willing to help me learn how to speak to people, how to write emails, and all of that basic stuff. They also taught me a ton of leadership skills, beyond basic social skills. I was a program aid at a summer camp for a couple of years, and that was a crash course in how to lead other people my age, how to lead people who were younger than I am, and how to interact with adults as equals. Girl Scouts itself is basically about leadership and preparing yourself for going out into the world as somebody who is experienced. All of my badges were targeted toward something that will be useful to me later in life and is also fun. Through Girl Scouts, I got a community, I got access to a ton of people, connections, networking, social skills, and just confidence in myself so I could go out and do this project. I would never have done this project without Girl Scouts.

Find this story inspiring? We’ve teamed up with Girl Scouts of the USA to encourage women to vote with limited-edition patches! Learn more here.

Caitlin Abber

Written By

Caitlin Abber

Caitlin Abber is the Brand Editor at M.M. LaFleur, and an award-winning writer and content creator. Over the last decade she has held senior editorial positions at MTV, Women's Health, Public Radio International, and Bustle, and has bylines at InStyle and OprahMag.com.

See more of Caitlin's articles
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