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Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.7, WHST.6-8.4, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.7, W.6-8.4, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Individual Development and Identity • Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Civic Ideals and Practices


Elections and You

On November 8, Americans will head to the polls to elect members of Congress, as well as state and local leaders. Meet three teens who are taking part in the process in unique ways—and inspiring others.

Chris Cone/Getty Images for Scholastic

Sam Cao, 18

The Candidate

Sam Cao wasn’t always interested in politics. But when he was in eighth grade, Sam got to interview then-U.S. presidential candidate Andrew Yang for a YouTube video. The Mason, Ohio, teen was inspired. Like Sam, Yang is Asian American. “The fact that someone who looked like me was able to run for president was amazing,” he says. 

Sam also had ideas about how his state could do a better job handling the Covid-19 pandemic. After learning that his state representative was reaching his term limit, Sam decided to run for the open seat. 

“Government affects everyone, including young people,” he says. “Shouldn’t we be represented?”

Last spring, Sam officially announced his candidacy. To get on this November’s ballot, he needed to win a primary election in August. 

Sam lost, but he still considers his campaign a success. He made history as the youngest person ever to run for state office in Ohio. 

“I think I’ve showed that young people have a place in politics and will be there for the long haul,” Sam says. 

Courtesy Margo Mattes

Margo Mattes, 18

The Poll Worker

Margo Mattes will be at the polls this month—and not just to vote. The teen from Brookline, Massachusetts, will be working at them too. 

Election officials rely on people like Margo, called poll workers, to staff voting sites. The volunteers check in voters, manage lines, and provide directions. “Poll workers help the election run smoothly,” Margo says. 

Some states let teens volunteer at voting sites.

In recent years, however, recruiting poll workers has been a challenge. Historically, the staffers have tended to be older Americans. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of poll workers in the 2018 general election were age 61 or older. But fewer members of that age group are signing up, in part because they are more at risk from complications of Covid-19.

That’s where Margo and other young people have stepped up. Although age requirements vary, some states let 16- and 17-year-olds work at the polls. 

Kids and younger teens can also help by encouraging their older friends and family members to volunteer. “It allows more polling places to be open, which makes it easier for people to vote,” Margo says. 

Lauren Lancaster/The New York Times/Redux

Hudson Rowan, 14

The Artist

Hudson Rowan has been drawing since he was old enough to hold a crayon. Now the teen from Marbletown, New York, has made his mark—with an unforgettable “I Voted” sticker design. 

Election officials in Hudson’s county held a voting sticker contest this past summer. Many of the entries featured traditional patriotic designs. But Hudson had a different vision: a vibrant, spiderlike creature with a big head, bulging red eyes, messy hair, and robotic legs. “I didn’t want to make it what other people thought it should be,” he says. “I wanted to make it my style.”

Hudson’s entry stood out. It became a viral sensation and ultimately racked up more than 228,000 votes out of 243,000 cast. On Election Day, voters in his county will be given his winning “I Voted” sticker.

“It’s amazing that people are going to be walking around wearing my art,” he says. 

Election officials hope the buzz will boost voter turnout. And Hudson is excited that his sticker could encourage people to care about the election. “I hope it gets kids enthusiastic,” he says. 

SKILL SPOTLIGHT: Civic Engagement

How are the teens in this story contributing to the election process? What is something you can do to get involved? Talk with your family, friends, and classmates about your idea.

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