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Executive Q&A: Haley Lickstein’s Journey to Boost Women and Youth Voting Engagement

Haley is a dynamic political influencer focused on engaging young women and youth in the voting process. Sparked into action by the 2022 midterm elections, she recognized the disconnection between young voters and the political sphere. Harnessing social media as her platform, Haley strives to bridge this gap, educating and empowering her audience on the importance of civic participation. Her efforts are dedicated to increasing awareness and breaking down barriers to voter turnout, especially among young women. Haley's work symbolizes the essence of modern advocacy, leveraging digital tools to create a more informed and engaged electorate.


TechEchelon recently interviewed Haley on her current work and vision for the future.


Q: What inspired you to become a political influencer and focus (among other things) on women and youth voting?

           

The 2022 midterm elections came after a summer of emotional, impactful, and in my opinion very bad, supreme court rulings that led to a lot of young people doubting our government.  I noticed many of my friends were not engaging in the election cycle and the stakes were incredibly high. Many of them had not heard about some of the big-ticket ballot items happening in state and local races that year and were not being reached by the traditional GOTV messaging. This made me realize there was just a huge gap in information sharing- we were not meeting young people where they are at, and that had to change.

 

So, in October 2022 I started posting on social media to try to help bridge the disconnect, encourage civic engagement, and empower young people with information on the impact of their actions and power of their voice.


Q: In your experience, what are the most significant challenges facing young women today when it comes to voting, and what solutions do you propose to overcome these obstacles?


For everyone, especially minorities, voting rights have been under attack the past few years. Since 2021 we have seen a wave of legislation introduced around the country meant to restrict access to voting and create significant barriers for people to make their voices heard. This is a place where social media has the potential to be a successful tool to combat these efforts.


Knowledge is power, and social media gives influencers and advocacy orgs the ability to disseminate information to young people about their rights at the polls. Each election cycle and during special elections I have posted videos on your rights at the polls, how to contact the voter protection hotlines, your stated voter ID laws and more to ensure young voters are prepared to face the obstacles being created to prevent them from using their voices.


Q: How has social media shaped the way young women engage with politics and voting, and what role do you see it playing in future elections?


I really believe social media is a tool for good and has so much power to advance issues and civic engagement when used that way. In recent years we have seen Tik Tok surpass Google as a search engine and been a machine when it comes to information sharing. I have loved seeing young girls use social media to talk about issues that matter to them, and advance community causes that others might typically not have exposure to.


I only see the role of social media growing when it comes to politics and advocacy work, and things campaigns need to learn how to embrace social media and having presence across platforms to help engage young people.


Q: What strategies do you think are most effective in empowering young women to participate in the electoral process?


The youth vote, and female vote, is one of the largest and most diverse voting blocks of any generation- if we want them to be engaged, I think there are two key areas to focus:

  1. We need to meet people where they are. This is exactly why I started posting politics on social media. Young people are clear they aren't using traditional news sources to get the news, so how are we adapting and adjusting?

  2. Number 2 is about informing people on the power of their actions, and understanding the impact their actions make even if it doesn't feel that way. In the digital era we live in we are so used to instant gratification- and advocacy does not work that way. It is easy to lose trust in a system where the headlines are constantly negative and always looks like we are taking steps backwards. We must help inform people young women of the progress that is being made and can be made when you get involved and use your voice to help people.


Q: Youth voter turnout has historically been low. What are your thoughts on encouraging more young people, especially young women, to vote?

 

I think this generation is determined to change that -The youth vote (ages 18-35) has been a key player and an increasingly prominent focus in politics and elections cycles over the past few years.


Voter turnout rates in 2022 were nearly as high as the record setting 2018 midterm turnout rates for young people, and their turnout has been accredited with stopping anticipated “red waves”.

 

My concern is more with keeping young people engaged as recent data has been anticipating a decline in youth voter turnout for 2024. I think the key to encouraging young people, and young women specifically to stay involved is to emphasize local elections. Investing time getting people excited about the people in their community running on issues that directly impact them I think will be more successful in driving people to the polls in 2024.


Q: How important do you think female representation in political offices is for the future of women's rights, and what can be done to increase this representation?


Having diverse, progressive women in office has never been more important. As we have seen a rollback on reproductive and healthcare rights and a continued fight to limit them, we need women in office who can fight for us. 


This means encouraging women in your life to run. Local elections have never been more important and a stat I really like to share and amplify is that in 2020 over 70% of seats up for election went unopposed.


We need to encourage women we know to lean in - if they are passionate about an issue the community they are qualified to run! Organizations like Run for Something, She Should Run, and EMILY’s List are doing amazing work helping women feel prepared to take that leap.


Q: Can you discuss any educational initiatives or programs you believe are vital in informing and motivating young women about voting?


In addition to some of the amazing organizations I mentioned above, I find it to be so important for young women to have exposure and connection to the remarkable women running for office across the country we may not hear about.


This Women’s History Month I am doing a series I am so excited for, interviewing incredible women from around the country running for offices down the ballot to represent their communities and issues they care about. By elevating their stories and missions, I am hoping to motivate and inspire young women to see not only that there is a place for them in politics but that there are people who look like them running to make a difference right now.


Q: What role does misinformation play in influencing young voters, particularly women, and how can they be better equipped to identify and combat it?


Misinformation is prevalent online, and so are echo-chambers. Using social media as a form of news and information gathering must be done responsibly. I encourage people to really think about who they are listening to online, fact check, and seek more than one source. Oftentimes a little digging beyond the first video you see on a topic will help inform where that viewpoint was coming from and its accuracy. Information has never been more accessible - so take advantage of that and challenge yourself to listen to more than one influencer or source on a topic.


I love to tell people about the fairness doctrine and the time in which news was required to present both sides of an argument- and to think about that mindframe, when digesting information to help make us the most informed voters we can be.


Q: Could you share a personal story or experience that highlights the importance of women's and youth voting in today's political climate?


We can look to so many of the recent democratic wins that have been attributed to youth voter turnout to see the importance and expanding influence the youth vote has as one of the largest voting blocks.

 

I would tell women; every single time abortion has been on the ballot since the overturning of Roe V Wade it has won- and that is in large part due to women turning out and decisively upholding this right in every state there has been the chance to. In 2024 around a dozen states have or are attempting to have amendments on the ballot to protect abortion rights in their state constitution- and so women need to keep showing up.


Q: Looking towards future elections, what message do you have for young women who are about to cast their vote for the first time?


Celebrate it! Go with friends or loved ones and truly embrace what an exciting opportunity it is to get to use your voice and right to vote. Make it something you look forward to!


Q: What role do you believe schools and universities should play in encouraging and facilitating youth, particularly young women, to vote?


Universities have the power to make huge differences in voter turnout by taking the steps to make voting more accessible to their students. Universities can and should be setting up voter registration drives in line with their states deadlines and in states that allow it, take steps to create on campus voting locations.


This year over 40 million members of Gen Z (ages 18-27) will be eligible to vote in the November election cycle, this includes 8 million youth voters who have never been of age to participate in the electoral process before.  So many of these voters call college campuses their homes. Schools have a responsibility to incorporate the importance of civic participation into their curriculums and that duty comes with ensuring that when students go out to try to vote it is accessible to them. 

 

Q: From your perspective, what recent policy changes have had the most significant impact on women and youth voting rights?


For women, undoubtedly, the most significant policy change is the Supreme Court ruling on Dobbs v. Jackson which dismantled 50 years of women's protection and the right to choose.

 

This attack on women’s rights comes at a time where LGBTQ, Immigrant, and Black and Latinx women are also facing record numbers of hateful legislation and policy attacks against them from across the country.  Despite the intensity of these roll backs and attacks- I truly believe that they have sparked a fire in young women unlike ever before and the policy makers responsible have waged a war that they will lose.

 

Q: Finally, what advice would you give to young women who want to become more politically active or even pursue a career in politics?


Go for it! We need you and your voice matters -- don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

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