D. Hilton Waits, Fox, Janet E., Waits, Shannan
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s “Voting and Registration in the Election of November 2006,” issued in June 2008, only 48 percent of voting-age citizens voted in the 2006 congressional election, which was a slight increase over the 46 percent that turned out in 2002. In the presidential election in 2004, registration and voting rates increased dramatically among younger citizens. While young adults still had the lowest voting and registration rates in 2004, relative to all other age groups, they also experienced the largest increase in both rates since the 2000 presidential election.
Reasons people did not vote included: “forgetting to vote” (6 percent) and “confusion or uncertainty about registration procedures” (4 percent).
The fact that it was a presidential election year prompted the Vermilion Parish 4-H Jr. Leader Club to think that the time was right for selecting a citizenship focus. Citizenship is also listed as one of the three 4-H Mission Mandates. In addition, members felt that more education in this area was needed to supplement classroom civics lessons.
The group collaborated with local businesses to conduct the voter registration drive and the “get out the vote” campaign. Educational lessons were conducted on political propaganda, local elected officials and the effects of campaign materials on voters' decisions.
70 members and 12 adult volunteers traveled to Washington, D.C., for an educational experience of a lifetime. The group participated in the Wonders of Washington program organized through the National 4-H Council and stayed at the National 4-H Conference Center. Members participated in a workshop titled “Action on the Hill,” where they watched a presentation then broke into small groups to conduct a mock committee hearing to discuss a bill.
As a result of their participation in this service-learning project, 85% agreed that they would try to make a difference in their community in the future.