To put it simply, young people do not turn out to the polls. The US Census Bureau found that less than 16 percent of registered voters between ages 18 and 24 cast ballots in the 2014 midterm elections.
If anyone can help change that, it’s the teenaged Parkland survivors-turned-activists, who again and again have turned tragedy into inspiration and moral persuasion following the deadly February mass shooting at their Florida high school.
Late Friday, they kicked off their Road to Change tour in Chicago. The students have partnered with HeadCount to travel across the country to register young voters in time for the various midterm elections this fall.
“We’re calling this the road to change and what better place to bring change than Chicago, it’s not the people, it’s the way people see Chicago,” Parkland senior Alfonso Calderon told CNN.
While their goal is to see people of their generation become motivated, informed voters, they say they don’t plan to try to influence how the newly registered voters will cast their ballots. The tour will not endorse any candidates.
The tour began at Chicago’s annual peace march, organized by St. Sabina Catholic Church. During the march, the Parkland students gave rousing speeches and joined a huge crowd that had gathered for the event.
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) June 15, 2018
“The main purpose of this tour is not just to educate people on gun violence and what we can do to prevent gun violence, but is also to register more people to vote,” says Matt Deitsch, chief strategist for March For Our Lives, told NPR.
The Parkland survivors have always aimed to keep other communities vulnerable to gun violence at the center of the conversation and Friday was no different. The tour aims to visit places affected by gun violence’s well as locales that are pro-guns. The chose Chicago as their starting point because it is a city ravaged by daily gun violence.
The students were joined by Chicago native Chance the Rapper, actress and singer Jennifer Hudson, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords as well as local organizers and activists.
— March For Our Lives (@AMarch4OurLives) June 16, 2018
The tour will be making 50-plus stops in over 20 states, including pro-gun Texas. On their social media accounts, the students plan to post pictures, posts from well-wishers, and notable moments from their journey.