The story behind the city-wide movement
Parade to the Polls ™ began in 2014 after an eager group of high school students convinced one of our organizers to bring them to vote. At this point, our team registered 15,000 young people to vote in a few short months but we knew we wanted to take that action a step further. We recognized at that moment that it is one thing to register young people, but it is a whole different level of civic engagement bringing them to go vote, on the spot … for the first time!
The following year, knowing we were on to something special, we teamed up with the “Just Vote” coalition to transform Parade To The Polls ™ . We rented several (creepy) white vans (the ones you see in the movies), decked them out in voting swag, and drove around the South and West sides convincing people it was a good idea to jump in our van to go vote. (It actually worked, organizers can be very persuasive).
We hit up bus stops, train stops, grocery stores, everywhere young people hung out. We drove up and took them to go vote. After some insane gas bills and recognizing there has to be a bigger, better, more efficient way to bring folx directly to polling locations, we switched to schools and school buses.
Since 2015, we have partnered with CPS Department of Social Science & Civic Engagement and have conducted hundreds of Parade To The Polls ™ , taking thousands of students at both colleges and high schools to go vote for the very first time. Our unique program was praised by Teaching Tolerance for our innovative civic engagement. At the beginning of each parade, we start out with a mini civics lesson, connecting the issues students care about to VOTING. One of our most memorable Parade To The Polls ™ took place at Hancock Highschool where students marched to the polls to take a stand against gun violence in remembrance of a classmate.
Some schools get marching bands behind students as they march to the nearest polling locations. Other schools create voting chants on the buses. Either way, the turn up is real during a parade to the polls as students and organizers celebrate the beginning of a beautiful voting tradition. Check out some footage Here!
During Parade To The Polls ™ season leading up to #Election2016, a well known Chicago hip-hop artist by the name of “Chance The Rapper” thought our idea was cool!! In partnership with Chicago Votes, Social Works, Prime Fortune, and BYP100; Chance held a free concert in Grant Park then led 6,000 young people to go vote at the Board of Elections. The epic night just goes to show, no idea is too small. What started out as a spontaneous voting trip from a high school, turned into thousands of young people marching downtown.
Parade To The Polls ™ is continuing to grow. In 2018, Chicago Votes has and will host more parades than ever before and is slowly working our civics curriculum into CPS. While Parade To The Polls ™ organically started with a group of students from the South Side, it has become a cornerstone of Chicago Votes’ voter engagement work. It is a real example of youth leading the way in innovation around the electoral process.
Chicago Votes believes voting should be a celebration. It is an opportunity to say thank you to those who laid down their lives for the right to vote. It is an opportunity to have a voice in electing the people who make decisions on the communities young people live in. What better way to celebrate voting than have a parade to go vote?
Want in on the action?
To learn about our high school Parade To The Polls ™ contact Rudy@chicagovotes.com
For city-wide concert’s of Parade To The Polls ™ contact Jen@chicagovotes.com