Despite the marked rise in student activism in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, it can be easy for politicians to ignore students. After all, most of them aren’t old enough to vote.
Inspired by recent student activism, three New York creatives decided to create a project to help elevate the voices of those students still too young to vote. They created WeCan.Vote, an election site for future voters.
The site allows students to vote on keeping or rejecting their current political representatives, providing links to the politicians’ websites and their NRA score.
“This generation asked us to march, and we marched. They dared to face politicians in a townhall, and with goosebumps, we watched. And when they asked the creative industry for help [at a 4A’s Accelerate panel in Miami], we felt like we definitely needed to do something. We’ve been inspired by them,” the creatives, who have chosen to remain anonymous, told Adweek via email.
Realizing that gun violence is a voting issue but most high school students can’t yet vote, the three creatives came up with the idea to create a digital hub as a kind of “election site” for future voters to express their opinions on politicians currently in office, showing them “what their future in politics will look like tomorrow, if they don’t take action today.”
When the site was ready to share, they reached out to student groups and connected with high school senior Reuben Glasser, founder of student activism group Students for Gun Legislation, which has chapters in both Ohio and Michigan, and decided to partner with the group.
“When we started the initial concept of this idea, we spoke with Jared Helman, who’s a Parkland Student and a member of #ChangeTheRef,” the team behind WeCan.Vote explained. “His feedback was super positive. He took the idea to his peers. He said ‘From a student perspective, I can say that WeCan.Vote is going to exponentially help politicians realize what’s going to happen during elections.'”
While the site just recently launched, they are already receiving enthusiastic responses from students.
“These students aspire to be taken seriously and they appreciate that we have given them the pedestal,” they said. “We have loved seeing students get excited about additions we could add to the site,” such as more detailed bios, additions for state governments and a 2018 midterm phase. “We are collecting all this feedback and hope to be able to build on this project in the future.”
Some student feedback has already led to tweaks to the site, such as more prominently featuring NRA ratings, based on input from March For Our Lives student activists.
“We were able to get reliable data from Vote Smart, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that collects and distributes information on candidates for public office in the United States,” the creatives explained. “For our initial launch, we chose to focus on NRA ratings as they are a succinct, easy to understand measure of a politician’s loyalty to the NRA. We love that we are hearing from students a thirst for more information and have already thought about how to incorporate additions.”
Ultimately, the team behind the project hopes to get as many students voting as possible. While the site could eventually expand to encompass other issues, for now they are focusing on the “complex issue” of gun control.
“We believe there are too many political and economical interests behind this issue. And alone, we know we’re not capable of changing that,” they said. “However, our hope is to give students a voice, so politicians take them as seriously as they take voters. Because students are capable of voting them out as well. We’re just giving them a tool to be louder.”
WeCan.Vote comes in the wake of myriad other recent projects around gun control from agencies and independent creatives, including Area23’s “Posts Into Letters” campaign with Change The Ref, transforming social media posts into letters to Congress. There’s also Ogilvy & Mather Chicago’s campaign promoting The Chicago Sun-Times’ 31 Bullets initiative, freelance creative director Susan Levine’s “Face2Face” campaign at the NRA Convention in Dallas and The Escape Pod’s “Chicago Gun Share Program.”