Parade to the Polls

Youth Powered Democracy

The idea 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!

Knowing we were on to something special, we teamed up with the “Just Vote” coalition to transform Parade To The Polls™. We rented several vans, 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 High School 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.

During Parade To The Polls ™ season leading up to 2016 elections, the entire city of Chicago got involved! In partnership with Chicago Votes, Prime Fortune, and BYP100; we hosted a massive city-wide concert featuring 5 local artists. Combing culture and politics is essential for youth civic engagement.

After the performances, 3,000 young people marched 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.

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?

Parade to the Polls© is a celebration of democracy. Our mission is to create a tradition of voting through hyper-local, civic action. We bring young people to the polls from high schools, colleges, concerts, and large scale events.

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High School Parades

Our high school Parade to the Polls™ program focuses on ensuring 18 year olds’ first time voting experience is safe, comfortable, and fun! Chicago Votes has worked with over 17 local high schools and executed over 50 parades take over one thousand students to cast their first ballot.

College Parades

The College Parade to the Polls™ program focuses on brining campus organizations together to discuss issues impacting students both on campus and in their communities. Students come together to rally in a centralized location on campus and parade to the closest Early Vote Polling Place.

Community Parades

Citywide Parade to the Polls™ was born in 2016 when Chicago Votes partnered with local, Chicago artists to put on a free get out the vote concern in Millennium Park. Our second citywide event was hosted in partnership with Women’s March Chicago. Each of these events attracted thousands of Chicagoans and encouraged them to take advantage of Early Voting by coordinating MASSIVE marches to the polls.

Party at the Polls

Chicago Votes partnered with the #VoteTogether coalition during 2018 midterm elections to execute our very first, hyper local events that worked to increase voter turnout in our targeted communities.