Young Ukrainian Leaders Educate Peers About the Electoral Process
According to public opinion surveys conducted by the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) in Ukraine, less than half (47 percent) of young Ukrainians say they have enough practical knowledge about the electoral process. This information gap includes a lack of knowledge on how and where to vote as well as critical information about voter registration. To address this challenge and encourage more youth participation in elections, in early March 2019, IFES launched a voter education campaign targeting young Ukrainians with a focus on first-time voters.
Before the presidential election, 16 student coordinators participated in a comprehensive two-day training that equipped them with the knowledge, skills and tools to organize voter education activities for their peers. Led by electoral and civic education experts, student coordinators learned how to conduct interactive lectures, mock election exercises and quiz games for their fellow students ahead of the 2019 presidential election in Ukraine. The coordinators were selected from partner universities that implement IFES' innovative, semester-long civic education course, Democracy: From Theory to Practice.
"When I stood in front of the audience and said we were going to have a lecture on the electoral process, everyone thought that it would be something boring,” said Volodymyr Kapusta, a student coordinator at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University of Kharkiv. “But when you start a lecture, brain ring [interactive quiz game] or mock election exercise, and people get involved in the process, start interacting with you… You see how their facial expressions change; they look interested in what is happening. I think this is the most important change we have achieved."
In the 25 days before the presidential election, the student coordinators held 114 educational events, familiarizing students from 20 universities with voter registration and election procedures. Participants learned about the mandates and functions of election management, including Precinct Election Commissions, District Election Commissions, the Central Election Commission and other electoral authorities in Ukraine. They analyzed the candidates’ programs and learned how to spot electoral fraud. Student coordinators also distributed more than 30,000 targeted informational brochures to students in their cities.
"I am proud that my country's citizens are interested in issues such as the election process and are ready to spend their time to learn more about it.”
“Before the project started, I thought that people would not be interested in the information we presented to them and the materials we distributed,” said Viktoriia Karpa, a student coordinator at Ivan Franko National University of Lviv. “But they approached us by themselves and asked us for the brochures. My attitude toward this issue has changed. I am proud that my country's citizens are interested in issues such as the election process and are ready to spend their time to learn more about it.”
Thanks to the work of Volodymyr and his fellow student coordinators, the campaign has reached over 3,100 young people to date, with a new campaign in advance of the July 21 parliamentary elections underway. Inspired by the previous campaign’s success in the spring, student coordinators are initiating interactive lectures and mock election exercises to help young Ukrainians make informed electoral choices.
“I am happy to see that we, as student coordinators, have an important job, helping our peers to make their choice independently and responsibly.”
"Previously, I thought that young people participating in elections … did not fully understand what they were experiencing,” said Bohdana Kostiuk, who is currently conducting educational activities in Sumy. “I am happy to see that we, as student coordinators, have an important job, helping our peers to make their choice independently and responsibly.”
Student coordinators have also become a part of the IFES-supported voter education campaign, "I have a right to vote." This campaign covers traditional and new media tools and face-to-face outreach. As part of this campaign, pages on various social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube, share voter education information with Ukrainian citizens. So far, the campaign’s social media content has reached over 10 million people, with over 13.5 million reactions to date.
This initiative is part of IFES’ broader efforts to strengthen democratic progress in Ukraine through the support of the United States Agency for International Development, Global Affairs Canada and UK aid.