Eden Prairie teen’s mission is to increase the number of registered voters

Peggy Kvam of the League of Women Voters-Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Hopkins chapter and Nicolette Johnson of Eden Prairie with the signs Johnson helped create with the assistance of Minnetonka High School students. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Whether old enough to vote or not, an Eden Prairie teen has made it her mission to get others out to vote this election year. 

Nicolette Johnson, 15, is an incoming sophomore at Eden Prairie High School. She has been working with her local League of Women Voters chapter, which represents Eden Prairie, Minnetonka and Hopkins, as a Youth Civic Engagement Fellow.

Now in its second year, the fellowship program through the League of Women Voters Minnesota office grants a stipend and funds to high school students to work on projects that encourage other students to register to vote.

Statistics have shown that once young people register, they are far more likely to vote, which inspired Johnson to start her register-to-vote campaign. Her efforts included making yard signs available and creating an online registration site.

Peggy Kvam, former president for the Minnetonka-Eden Prairie-Hopkins chapter, has been Johnson’s mentor for the fellowship.

“Our plan was for her to work with the public, charter and private high schools in Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and Hopkins to help them set up voter registration drives at each school this spring,” Kvam said.

Johnson created a web page explaining how to do this, lwvmeph.org/voter-registration-toolkit.

She was also planning to have a voter registration table at community events, then the pandemic happened “and that plan went out the window,” Kvam said.

So, Johnson improvised.

Instead, she created web pages for the chapter and contacted the schools to arrange for the teachers to promote the pages in their online learning classes.

“Her project really grabbed some attention at Minnetonka High School and the art class developed posters for voter registration,” said Kvam said.

The posters have a QR code connected to her website, which she submitted to the high schools to distribute to the online students.

For summer voter registration promotion, Johnson came up with the idea to create yard signs and reformatted the poster designs.

“Community events are still pretty sparse, so we are very excited about this,” Kvam said.

Johnson is also applying this project to fulfill a part of her Girl Scout Gold Award. This is the highest honor for Girl Scouts and requires doing a project that impacts the community, is sustainable, includes at least 80 hours of community service and involves leading others.

The LWV is helping ensure this project is sustainable for years to come by hosting Johnson’s web pages.

Also, because the yard signs don’t have a specific date, they can be used election year after election year.

Despite of not being able to vote, Johnson understands the importance of civic duty and helping others register to vote.

“I think it’s important that people vote because then they will have their voice in this country and have a say in the way it’s run,” she said.

“I have always been interested in politics and as I grew up I noticed that my peers had very little to no interest in voting,” Johnson said. “With the presidential election coming up, I decided to do my Girl Scout Gold Award on young adult voter registration.”

Through the League of Women Voters, Johnson said she has learned a lot about voting. And even though she can’t officially join the league until she is 16, Johnson intends to stay connected to this “amazing organization.”

She is also hoping to apply for a second year as a fellow continue her work with the area high schools.

“Given remote learning of high school students, I made the suggestion for promotion through social media, the website and yard signs,” she said. “This also enabled me to expand the reach of audience.”

Johnson also recommends other young people consider applying for the fellowship.

“This is a great opportunity for youth to gain awareness about voter registration and the democratic process,” she said. “I would suggest that anyone that is interested in promoting voter participation to pursue this amazing opportunity.”

To register to vote and help Johnson with her Girl Scout Gold Award, visit lwvmeph.org/register-here.

Yard signs can also be purchased online at lwvmeph.org/yard-signs.

For more information on the fellowship, visit lwvmn.org/youth-civic-engagement.

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Kristen Miller is the community editor for the Sun Sailor, covering the communities of Plymouth, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Email story ideas to kristen.miller@apgecm.com

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