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22 October 2002


Tuesday, November 5th, our national election date, is fourteen days away. A defining moment for ALL of us - including those of you presently too young or otherwise ineligible to vote.

What is this election about:
Federal concerns: The economy, health care, crime, education and career opportunity, the environment, and of course, our safety - at home, abroad, in the world. By electing our Congress - Senators and the members of the House of Representatives - we determine the policy and direction of this nation on a national and global level.

State Concerns: By electing governors, lieutenant governors, secretaries of state, state legislators, attorneys general, superintendents of education; and by voting on ballot measures, we determine how to fund public institutions, education policies, state revenues and many other issues that affect us in the states in which we live.

Local Concerns: By electing county, city or town offices (county superintendents, assessors, sheriffs, councilmen, tax collectors, mayors, city council, police chiefs, school superintendents and school boards) and voting on measures including crime, school and municipal bonds, medical services to the community, we determine local taxes, local commercial and residential development and services, the quality of our afterschool and recreation areas and programs, libraries, new roads and many other day-to-day concerns that keep our neighborhoods up and running.

THIS IS IT!!!!!!

We are a country on the verge of war. We are a country faced with threats to our own safety and threats to our Constitution from outside and from within. We are a country faced with too many out of work as our economy trips over itself. We are a village where it is important that we find a book we need for a subject we want, a desk in our classroom, or a skateboard park or unpolluted waterway near us so we can relax.

We place others in office to pass laws and administer them to make our city, our state, our nation and our world better. If they haven't done so, it is time to vote them out. If there is someone newer and better, then it is time to vote him or her in. If there is a law on the ballot that affects you, it is time to ensure you know about it.

A quote from James Baldwin (No Name in the Street) I included in TEEN POWER POLITICS: "We are responsible for the world in which we find ourselves, if only because we are the only sentient force which can change it.'

Here is our moment for change. Check out resources below for elective action. Students who cannot yet vote can educate themselves on ballot items as well as educate and advise their parents, friends, and older siblings. Those who can vote can help each other by dividing issues and candidates to research. Get together prior to the election to advise each other.

Two weeks is still plenty of time to get active. Presidential elections every four years are not the only time that very serious considerations are being considered. In Congress, the balance of the Senate will be determined as will the power of the House. If you are at all concerned with what our administration is doing - right or wrong - then involving yourself in determining the makeup of these two powerful bodies, part of our constitutional system of checks and balances of power, is key.

For a broad focus on major national and state concerns, look at A.5.b. below for questions asked of congressional and state gubernatorial and legislative candidates.

There are many things seemingly more interesting than an election but.....this is important and affects everything you do, even if the direct connection is not that apparent. And hey, it doesn't even take that much time or effort. And..... in many districts, it's in almost as many languages as the people who make up that area!!!!!

Some newer teen statistics for you:
1. As of the census in April, 2000 - you now number over 281 million.
2. In 2001, teens spent over $172 billion.
3. Most of you are on the Internet, whether at home, at school or at work.

Do you think you have power? We are a nation of numbers. Those above say that you do in terms of size (approximately 15% of the U.S. population), power over commerce, and communication.

BUT.... fewer that one-third of eligible youth (18-24 year olds) voted in the 2000 election. ( How can you show your power if you don't use all of your tools???????

Youth issues are always on the back burner 'cause not all of you vote and those who can, do not in substantial numbers. Yet youth are gathering now for anti or pro-war marches (See October 26th marches at For global issues. For the environment. For many other concerns.

There are many ways to be political and every one of these is a legitimate and effective expression of what you want to say. But do not forget that the vote is a tool just like all of the others. If you want any of your concerns up front, show your power by voting if you can or getting out the vote if you cannot. It is your time.

For those new to this newsletter, I am the author of TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD, an issue-oriented book for young Americans on civic and political activism. Engagement is integral to our democracy and youth and young voters - citizens and residents already - definitely have the voice, power, intelligence, sense of justice, passion and energy to give the benefit of their participation right now. Updates and resources for change are provided on and my periodic newsletters


A. The Election
B. War, Safety & Our Constitution
C. Student Liberties - Suspicionless Drug Testing. A TPP followup.


1. Although a site or two is not updated, check out my 4th Newsletter (30 October 2000), written on the eve of that Halloween before our last presidential election. Lots of stuff you can do - voter or not - to involve yourself and others in this moment.

2. Absentee Ballots and other important info for students at Votes for Students From their site: "...VFS will harness the unparalleled connectivity of college students to ensure the voting process is simpler than ever before... VFS will e-mail students every tool needed to cast an educated vote on November 5...[including] voter registration and absentee ballot request forms, a voter guide outlining candidates and issues, and lastly, directions to the polling place."

3. "I'm tired of hanging chads". There are many new ways to vote, including touchsreens, often in combination with early voting (before the actual election date). Call or look online for your state or local registrar of voters to find out whether any of this newer technology is available to you and where and for how long. From the Los Angeles County (CA) registrar of voters, a great website to learn about this system.

4. "Do I need to vote for everything and will it invalidate my ballot if I do not?" In a perfect world, we would know about every candidate and ballot measure. The truth: often, it's all we can do to just get there. It's not really ok but that may be just the way it is. Do NOT let this deter you from voting. An educated vote on several issues can impact public policy the way you want it. So pick and choose if you must. It is not required that you vote every ballot item. Just get there and let others know as well.

5. How do I find out about candidate positions and the real impact of laws I vote for?
a. My 17th Newsletter has links to some great sites.
b. For focus on issues, check out Project Vote Smart's "National Political Awareness Test" Find your state categories (congressional, gubernatorial, state legislative), then the subject headings and read candidate questions and responses that can help you determine what it is you want to know from a current candidate or measure. Any of them will inspire you to more critical thinking.
(1) For congressional candidates, the questions centered on these issues: Abortion; Budgetary, Spending and Tax Issues (Budget Priorities, Defense Spending, Taxes, Taxes); Campaign Finance and Governmental Reform; Crime; Drugs; Education; Employment and Affirmative and Energy; Guns; Heath; Immigration; International Aid (International Aid, International Policy, International Trade); National Security; Social Security; Technology; Welfare and Poverty; and Legislative Priorities.
(2 For state gubernatorial and legislative candidates: Abortion; Budgetary, Spending and Taxes; Campaign Finance and Governmental Reform, Crime; Education; Employment and Affirmative Action; Environment and Energy, Guns; Health; Welfare and Poverty; Legislative Priorities.

6. Media Literacy or how to understand what TV commercials and all those little mailers are really saying. Take a look at TPP, Chapter Six, "Knowledge is Power." "Media Literacy" is there defined as "learning how to figure out the difference between fact, op inion, propaganda and bias in what we watch, read, and hear." Question ads from how a candidate is literally positioned on the stage, the music playing behind him, to the concerns discussed. Listen carefully to the words and see if they are designed to play upon your emotions and if they are, look further to see if a vote for this candidate or measure will really help what you want to see happen.

Educate yourself through the many news sources including international sites listed on previous newsletters.


1. There are many avenues to patriotism. None should narrow the scope of our constitution and the rights and benefits it provides. True: It is flexible. Not true: it does not always "snap back." Whether or not you agree with the various safety measures in place after 9/11 and even now when a sniper threatens so many in the greater DC area, please visit the ACLU website and their page, "Keep America Safe and Free." to see what it is we must protect.

2. A thorough bulletin from on the subject of conscientious objection is located at Why conscientious objection" now? Says MoveOn: " We believe that learning about conscientious objection is important whether or not a new draft is instituted. Whether legally recorded or not, the root of the matter remains the same -- determining one's beliefs about war and peace."


While on the subject of our liberties, in TEEN POWER POLITICS (pg. 6) I wrote about Lindsay Earls, then 16 and a high school junior, who in August of l999 had just challenged her School Board's directive that all participants in afterschool activities be drug tested. This challenge has gone all the way to the Supreme Court.

Unfortunately this summer, the Supreme Court by a close (5-4) vote reversed an earlier federal appeals court ruling on Board of Education vs. Earls that random drug testing on students involved in extracurricular activities was unconstitutional. From a recent Wiretap article: "[The Court} said that "students in extracurricular activities had a "reduced expectation of privacy," and that the administration of urine tests (or other forms of random drug testing) did not significantly intrude on a student's privacy."

If you do not agree, see "Drug Testing Fails," set up by Lindsay, her mother and many others including coaches, teachers, parents and students to contest this incursion upon a student's civil liberties.

There is a lot more going on but please use these next two weeks to show the power teens and adults have in this country.

Patriot. Dissenter. American. Citizen. Resident. Child. Teen. Gen X. Gen Y. Boomer. Senior. Whatever we call ourselves. Whatever we call others. We are all here together and together, we are the strength and the future of the United States. Let us concentrate on getting out a strong, informed vote. It will affect everything else that we do.

Check out TEEN POWER POLITICS: MAKE YOURSELF HEARD and its companion website, TPP was written as a guide and a tool for activism. If ever that tool was needed, it is now.

Again, PLEASE let me know of a concern or activities to discuss here. And send this on to others. They (or you) can e-mail me to be added to (or removed from) this list. If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list. Thanks for taking the time to read this!

Thanks for taking the time to read this! If you received this twice, please let me know as I refine my list.

Sara Jane Boyers
Press/Twenty-First Century Book ISBN: 0-7613-1391-5, paper $9.95/ISBN
0-7613-1307-9 hardcover, $25.90
VOYA's Nonfiction Honor List, Bank Street's "Best Books of 2001",
NYPL 2001 Books for the Teen Age, Reading List for the Chicago Public Schools
-LIFE DOESN'T FRIGHTEN ME Stewart, Tabori & Chang
A Publisher's Weekly "Best Book" of the Year, NYPL "Best Books for Teens", ALA "Book for Reluctant Readers", AIGA "50 Best Designed Books"
© 2002 Sara Jane Boyers