You've seen them at Block Party—freaky enthusiastic young folks with zany stickers and stacks of voter registration forms. They're the Washington Bus, a youth political engagement organization. If you've ever had the chance to watch C-SPAN or the Seattle Channel, you realize how mind-numbingly boring politics can seem to the generation political decisions effect the most.
Sam Heft-Luthy is a summer fellow at the Bus. A recent graduate from Garfield High School, he met the Washington Bus at Block Party in the summer of 2008. Sam took their "pop quiz for a popsicle," which involves questions about the average voting age of Washington residents in off-year primaries (it's 62. sixty-fuckin'-two.) This didn't sit well with Sam, so he signed up then and there to volunteer.
Washington Bus was the booth with the most smiles
His love for politics and engagement started as a wee lad, watching The West Wing with his parents. This summer, he's registered loads of voters—even dressed as a zombie at the Zombie Walk in Fremont. Although he's been getting his peers engaged in local politics for nearly four years with the Bus, he turned 18 less than two weeks ago, and filled out his primary ballot with glee.
Another one of the 25 summer fellows is Christina Sessoms. Like Sam, she's 18, and loves loves loves politics. She first learned about the Bus when they visited WSU, where she's studying international relations. "I applied for the fellowship, got an interview, and when they called me to tell me I got it, I started screaming and jumping around." Yeah—she cares.
One of her favorite parts of the fellowship is doorbelling (campaign managers, take note). She loves the personal connection with voters, and feels that it's effective. Christina is taking advantage of every aspect of the program. When speakers come to talk to the fellows, she's sure to get a business card, and has followed up with many.
Alex Miller, Washington Bus
Christina and a newly registered voter
It's fairly easy to write off young folks as a whole, largely because there are few political engagement programs. Seriously—go to any candidate forum, luncheon, or candidate event. Events at bars cut off three years of voters, and forums (like the League of Women's Voters one I was at two weeks ago) are filled with white hair. There's nothing wrong with this, but it's no wonder that young folks are alienated and disengaged from what is, for the most part, a fairly boring yet vital process.
Washington Bus is packed with people who are super stoked to get people engaged in politics, and their energy is infectious. This weekend, their volunteers registered over 300 voters. These kids are so much more than alright—they're changing what it means to be politically active in our state.