My Vote, My Election (Mi Voto, Mi Elección) partners with the University of Buenos Aires (Universidad de Buenos Aires, UBA), the Ministry of Education and the National Election Chamber (Cámara Nacional Electoral, CNE) to introduce teenage students to the electoral process. In-class workshops include multimedia modules and a detailed voting simulation, to give participants the hands-on experience and confidence they need to cast a ballot for the first time. The curriculum was developed for teens but is also viewed as a resource for incarcerated people and persons with disabilities.
Although young citizens have the right to vote, they often face structural, cultural and practical barriers to registration and voting. These barriers include a lack of information needed to cast a valid and informed ballot, lack of experience with the mechanics of voting, and a sense of disaffection from formal politics.
How'd They Do It?
Under previous law, voting was mandatory for Argentine citizens aged 18 to 70. However, in 2012 lawmakers extended obligatory voting to 16- and 17-year olds. To educate these new voters, the Buenos Aires Political and Electoral Reform Directorate cooperated with the Ministry of Education to create “Mi Voto, Mi Elección,” a non-partisan curriculum focused on teens.
The City partners with the National Election Chamber (CNE) and the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) law school to help develop and deliver the curriculum. The law school’s Public Law Department recruits professors and teaching assistants, who receive a training-of-trainers from the general coordination team of the Buenos Aires Political and Electoral Reform Directorate, while CNE provides technical content. The curriculum includes a PowerPoint covering democratic basics: the division of powers, the role of political parties and voters, how to find information about parties and candidates, how to vote, etc. This is followed by a voting simulation to demonstrate how to properly mark a ballot and ensure that it is counted. During the simulation, students act as both voters and election administrators, using attendance lists to determine eligibility and filling out and counting mock ballot materials provided by the CNE. The ballots offer not only a hands-on training exercise, but also an opportunity to cover key aspects of Argentine electoral law, like electoral parity between women and men in the parties’ lists. To conclude the class, there is a 90-second motivational video to encourage the teens to vote and be part of this important moment of democracy.
Mi Voto, Mi Elección creators took several steps to ensure that the program would be nonpartisan. First, the curriculum does not reference actual political parties or candidates in simulation exercises. Instead it relies on apolitical historical figures as “candidates” from parties organized around school subjects. For instance, students holding the mock vote might choose from Marie Curie of the “Biology Party,” or Frida Kahlo of the “Arts Party.” Furthermore, the protocol for classroom instructors and program coordinators (who accompany the instructors to ensure quality and consistency and evaluate the program’s effectiveness) forbids them from wearing partisan political apparel, distributing material that is not part of the program’s curriculum, or making statements or answering questions in a way which might bias a student's opinion.
The Mi Voto, Mi Elección website provides general voter-education resources such as:
- A map to find schools where the program will be held.
- Information about how ballots can be spoiled or challenged, electoral accessibility for voters with disabilities, and how national and local government is organized.
- Tips for election day.
- Argentine legal-framework documents (constitutions, voting laws, electoral code, etc.)
How's It Going?
- Since its beginning in 2013, the program has trained more than 165,000 students from the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, reaching all 15 of the city’s administrative communes.
- In the program’s first iteration in 2013, 65 professors and teaching assistants participated, providing around 800 trainings in public and private high schools, including special-needs classrooms. This amounted to every public school in the city, in addition to a third of the private schools.
- In 2016 and 2017, the program partnered with Argentina Legisla, a civic-education program which brings teenage students from all the provinces to Buenos Aires to learn about the national legislative process and visit institutions such as the National Congress.
- In testimonies, students have stated that the program was eye-opening for them, pulling back the curtain on voting procedures and mechanisms as well as the nature and structure of government. Participants have remarked that “Mi Voto, Mi Elección” gave them the confidence to go out and cast their first ballot in the next election.
- The Buenos Aires Political and Electoral Reform Directorate also implemented a complementary program designed for teenage students who have recently voted. Named “Voz y Voto,” the program uses playful content to share other democratic tools they can use to express their voices.
How can the city help to build a culture of civic participation and increase voter turnout?
Can engagement of youth populations at the time that they are first eligible to vote contribute to a lifelong practice of voting and civic engagement?