- - Monday, September 12, 2016

Millennials may be turned off by the current political system — but now there’s a new platform to engage them.

A recent poll from Gallup entitled, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live” (http://www.gallup.com/reports/189830/millennials-work-live.aspx), found that Millennials are politically indifferent and self-identify as politically moderate or independent.

Moreover, in 2012, only half of 18-to-25-year-olds eligible to vote made it to the polls, compared with 72 percent of the elderly, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

If Millennials feel disenchanted about the political system, it might be directly related to the fact that they don’t make it to the polls — elected officials are loathe to create policy for those who have had little influence in electing them. So Millennials’ inaction causes disenchantment — and their disenchantment feeds their inaction.

How to end this vicious cycle?

America’s Mock Election was created in the summer of 2015 in reaction to this pattern of nonparticipation in state, federal and local elections (state and local elections garner even lower youth turnout).

The mission of America’s Mock Election is to make significant strides in creating the most comprehensive and powerful student-voter education experiences for presidential and local political races for 2016 and beyond.

America’s Mock Election founder Gerard Ferri is dedicated to creating a dynamic election program that will ignite an emotional spark and lead students towards a lifetime of voting. Ferri has experience with youth and mock elections, having run a similar campaign in 1992 with CNN.

This time around, Ferri is partnering with the University of Virginia’s Youth Leadership Initiative. The university’s Center for Politics is widely recognized as a leader in political analysis, as well as civic education, and its Youth Leadership Initiative boasts over 70,000 registered educators and provides an annual mock election that is second to none.

Ferri also brought in other leading civic organizations, as well as philanthropist John Herklotz, to build his dynamic election program. By pulling the talents of many great organizations, such as The Constitutional Sources Project, Discovery Education, Envision Education and the Center for Civic Education, America’s Mock Election will for the first time put the spotlight on kids in an exciting new way. Partnering organizations have offered ideas, networking support and logistical guidance throughout the past year.

The Youth Leadership Initiative’s 2016 National Mock Election will open its polls on Monday, Oct. 17. Polls will remain open through 5 p.m. EST on Oct. 27.

Once polls have closed, the results will be sent to America’s Mock Election, where they will be used to produce a nationally broadcast online program to be shown in classrooms across the nation. The UVA Center for Politics’ Youth Leadership Initiative will provide curriculum materials, including lesson plans comparing the candidates, downloadable decorations, and a customizable ballot for all registered teachers. The ballot will include the offices of president and vice president, U.S. House and Senate, and all gubernatorial races. Teachers can add local races and referenda to make the experience more complete.

“It is really important to us that teachers have the most authentic experience possible, so that when students get to the polls after turning 18, they are comfortable and ready to exercise their right,” said Meg Heubeck, director of instruction for the Youth Leadership Initiative.

The initiative’s team contacts each state’s board of elections to determine the actual ballot order and replicates that on the mock election ballot. “There is evidence that mock elections are successful in influencing a young person’s decision to vote upon turning 18,” Heubeck added. “This is what inspires both YLI and AME to make the experience as accurate as possible.”

On Friday, Oct. 28th, America’s Mock Election will meet in Annapolis, Maryland, to film the National Mock Election Results show. Young people will host the event, which will include specials guests from supporting organizations introducing the mock election results for each state.

The program will make its way into classrooms across the nation the week prior to Election Day on Nov. 8.

By releasing the results prior to the actual election, students will have a chance to be in the spotlight and be supported by the general public for their efforts.

“This is all about the kids and the future of America. We live in an apathetic age. We have to change that by taking it to the streets!” Ferri said. “Getting the kids to vote is a crucial first step in them becoming good citizens.”

To register to participate in the Youth Leadership Initiative Mock Election, teachers should visit www.youthleadership.net and visit the Mock Election page to prepare their students.

For more information about America’s Mock Election’s Mock Election Results Program and other exciting, election-related incentives, visit www.americasmockelection.org.

Following the election, America’s Mock Election promises to continue inspiring such civic engagement through other programs, including celebrity role model-type concerts.

“It is up to all of us to bring young people into the fold. Our future depends on it and I for one am here to make sure it happens,” said Ferri.

Meg Heubeck is director of instruction for the Youth Leadership Initiative at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, and Gerard Ferri is the executive director of America’s Mock Election.

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