Tag Archives: democracy

Chicago Democracy Week Found to Increase Voter Turnout Among 17, 18-Year Olds

Student testimonialsToday, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, alongside a coalition of voting rights groups, announced more than 6,000 CPS students and over 3,500 17-year-olds in suburban Cook County were registered as part of the first annual Chicago Democracy Week (2/3/14-2/7/14)  – leading to a record voter turnout in the March Primary among young voters.

The registration totals are part of a report released today, “Voting Early and Often: An Evaluation of Chicago Democracy Week 2014,  the culmination of a week-long effort to expand voter registration  among younger voters led by Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the Cook County Clerk, the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights under Law, Inc., Chicago Votes, Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago, Mikva Challenge, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Rock the Vote, and the League of Women Voters of Chicago. The report also details lessons learned for other communities interested in conducting a similar voting drive.

While Chicago Democracy Week’s principal aim was to register 17-year olds to vote, the report finds that the turnout of those who registered surpassed that of 19-45 year old voters for the first time in history.  The turnout of CPS students at the March Primary was 12.0%.  This is slightly higher than the average Chicago turnout of 11.9%, breaking a decades long trend of young voters (18-25 year olds) turning out at around half the rate of all other voters.

“This Report shows that when civic groups combine their efforts with that of election authorities and public school administrators, we can close the registration and turnout gap between young people and all other voters.  I feel a real sense of accomplishment that we managed to work together so well and achieve such fantastic results,” stated Ruth Greenwood, Voting Rights Fellow with the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.

Langdon D. Neal, Chairman of the Chicago Board of Elections, said, “Even though we saw low turnout rates at this election, it was remarkable that the turnout rates of 17- and 18-year-olds were higher than the turnout rates among voters in their 20s, 30s and 40s. The new voters were more likely than many of their parents to participate.”  On Wednesday, May 7 at 10:00 a.m., 69 W Washington St, Chicago IL, 60602, Eighth Floor Conference Room, the Chicago Board of Elections will convene a press conference, featuring representatives from the groups involved, to discuss results and next steps.

“I think we were so successful because we pulled together groups that know their audience and could target voter registration activities directly at young people engaging in the election process for the first time.” said Nisan Chavkin, Executive Director of Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago.


The Cup of Sugar and Bad Cold Defense

by Anita Dellaria
Elementary/Middle Schools Program Manager
Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago

“‘Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in,’ said the Wolf. So he huffed and he puffed and he blew his house in.”

Students work closely with attorney volunteers to understand legal concepts
Students work closely with attorney volunteers to understand legal concepts

One of Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago’s civic learning  events is a jury experience conducted with 2nd and 3rd grade students in Chicago public elementary schools. The trial is State v. Wolf based on The Three Little Pigs and the outcome might surprise you.

We all know the story. A belligerent wolf pounds on the doors of the three little pigs, bellowing and demanding to be let in. When the pig with the straw house and then the pig with the stick house refuse entry, he huffs and he puffs and he blows their houses down. Only when he is faced with the sturdiness of the brick house and the ingenuity of the third little pig is the wolf defeated, ending up in a boiling pot of water.

Students weigh evidence
Students weigh the evidence

Time after time the unexpected happens. Despite his place in the popular imagination as a predator and all-around bad guy, the wolf is found not guilty. Out of 187 votes cast this year so far, the wolf has been found not guilty by 152 individual school children and guilty by only 35.

How can this be? Perhaps the answer lies in the wolf’s (a.k.a. B.B. Wolf) version of the story. According to his testimony, he had a bad cold and a great desire to bake a cake for his grandmother. When he knocked on Fran Pig’s door to borrow some sugar, he sneezed and blew down her straw house. He ran to Stan Pig’s house to tell him about his sister’s house, but he sneezed again and blew down his stick house. He then ran to Dan Pig’s house to tell him about his brother and sister and to borrow some sugar when he sneezed again, but Dan Pig’s brick home withstood his ferocious “achoo!”

The jury foreperson delivers the verdict
The jury foreperson delivers the verdict

Some might say his story is a bit incredible, but the defense produces a receipt for cold medicine, and it is this receipt that jury members consistently cite when asked to explain their not guilty verdicts. They also cite what they perceive as a bias against B.B. Wolf. Relying on Fran Pig’s admission during cross-examination that not only did she not know B.B. Wolf but that she didn’t want to know him, the students detect good old-fashioned prejudice. “After all, he is a wolf,” she stated.

As any attorney volunteer who has participated in this event can tellyou, the children are concerned with “getting it right,” and acknowledge the difficult choice they face. When asked what he learned, one student responded, “I learned that whether you want a defendant to be guilty or not you need evidence to prove it.” When asked what it felt like to be on a jury, one student responded, “Being on a jury is hard because you have to hear both stories and…it is a hard choice.”

The receipt for cold medicine is very convincing
The receipt for cold medicine is very convincing

We can think of all sorts of reasons why the wolf won, but we can’t completely discount that the wolf is found not guilty because 2nd and 3rd graders do understand the importance of fairness, rational decision-making, and the awesome responsibility that comes with having the power to curtail another person’s liberty.

How should a citizen feel when she sits on a jury? Let’s hope she feels like the third grader who said, ““I feel brave and alive.”

For more information about State v. Wolf, contact Jessica Chethik at chethik@crfc.org.

Preview the program here!