Do you remember your first time? Voting, that is. A large and growing group of YA authors is hoping that sharing their personal first-time voting stories with their readers via social media will inspire young people to register and vote in the fast-approaching election.
The #firstvote16 campaign launched on September 27, which was National Voter Registration Day, and was sparked when author friends E. Lockhart, Gayle Forman, and Libba Bray met for dinner. “We all care about this election and the future of our country and we got the idea to try to reach out to the first-time voters in the audience for YA literature, demystifying the process and encouraging young people to let their voices be heard,” said Lockhart.
The trio wanted their campaign to have as much visibility as possible, so “we amplified our idea by reaching out to bestselling author Margaret Stohl, one of the organizers of YALLFest and YALLWest, and her amazing organizer, Tori Hill,” Lockhart noted. The ripples began to spread as Stohl and Hill in turn recruited Melissa de la Cruz and Kami Garcia to contact additional members of the YA community as well as other friends from “Hollywood, Broadway, and the fashion industry.”
Momentum built quickly. “We soon partnered with the great people at Rock the Vote,” Lockhart said. “Many of us had fond memories of their campaigns in the – cough – 1980s. They made us a special destination page where people can register online in two minutes and provided us with info on the concerns of young voters,” she added. “They were amazingly supportive and have a great platform.”
Lockhart says that she and her compatriots “recruited everyone we could.” As work progressed, author,and publisher David Levithan, who oversees the NYC Teen Author Festival, came aboard with his roster of contacts, and the team at We Need Diverse Books also added their contact list to the mix.
Along the way, Lockhart took note of others’ likeminded efforts. “We loved the work Hank and John Green were doing on getting out the vote – Hank is partnered with YouTube to create voter information videos for all 50 states – and we love Tumblr’s voter registration widget.” Throughout this ramp-up process, Lockhart says she was truly inspired by all the “great organizations focused on the youth vote,” but she also strongly believed her fellow authors had something unique to contribute to the cause. “We still thought the YA community might have the ears and eyes of a certain group of young people – and that reaching them would be well worthwhile,” she explained. “So we took action.”
Lockhart describes the campaign as nonpartisan and humorous, and says that it acknowledges that voting can be daunting. Bottom line, she offered, “It is meant to be empowering, a little cheeky, fun to watch, and to drive young people to register and to vote.” Plans are to continue #firstvote16 this week, but Lockhart says that it will run as long as people keep making videos and writing posts for it. As of 11 a.m. on September 29 , Lockhart shared this tally of their progress so far: “Videos have launched from me, Margaret Stohl, John Green, Melissa de la Cruz, Sarah Dessen, Danielle Paige, John Corey Whaley, Ellen Hopkins, Libba Bray, Heather Cocks, Jessica Morgan, Zac Brewer, Soman Chainani, Alex London, Lauren Oliver, Veronica Roth, and Gwenda Bond. Many more to come!” With new authors joining the campaign all the time, Lockhart suggests following the hashtag on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram as the best way to get a sense of who’s participating.