Snapchat has launched a new Run for Office feature that young Arizona politicians hope will help inspire more of Generation Z to get involved in local government.
The feature helps users filter local elected offices by issues they're interested in and provides access to candidate recruitment organizations and training programs. It also includes a campaign dashboard, showing users what steps need to be taken to get their names on the ballot and helps them campaign through Snapchat.
According to Snapchat, the application reaches 90% of 13 to 24 year olds living in the U.S., which is why the new feature with information on how to run for office is in its mini-games section of the app.
Alexa Scholl, an ASU alumna who is serving as the mayor pro tempore of Prescott, said access to resources is one of the most important aspects of campaigning that will help young people get involved.
"Money and resources are key to running a campaign, so any help connecting young people with those resources will be beneficial," Scholl said in an email.
Scholl ran for and won a seat on the Prescott City Council as a junior at ASU in 2017. She said being a college student helped add a new perspective to the council.
"Being a college student while on Council was actually a huge asset for me," Scholl said in the email. "The next youngest person on the City Council right now is still about three decades older than me, so I felt like I had a lot to offer."
Armando Montero, a junior studying political science, economics and mathematics, was elected to the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board in 2020, and said he's noticed from his time in local politics that the perspective of young people is necessary.
According to a study done by Rutgers University's Center for Youth Political Participation, only eight Arizona State House members and four Arizona State Senators were millennials in 2019. The average age of Tempe City Council members in 2019 was 51.
"There's one thing that I've learned from being on the board so far, it's that we need more young people in office and having a seat at the table," Montero said. "We have been able to accomplish a lot of things in the past nine months on this board, and that stems from being able to have conversations that we haven't had at that level before."
Casey Clowes, an ASU alumna running for Tempe City Council for the second time, acknowledged that being a young candidate can be hard when most other candidates and elected officials are twice your age.
"There are certain expectations about what an elected official is supposed to be and look like," Clowes said in an email. "Even when young candidates have life experiences and track records of public service, it can be harder for voters to see these because of age."
Montero said age also causes older elected officials to doubt the abilities and the perspectives of younger elected officials.
"A lot of the time we hear that our input (as) students and young people (is) valued, and in many cases that's true until you decide to run for office," Montero said.
The Snapchat Run for Office feature hopes to combat this problem by getting more young people into elected office to balance the age range of politicians. The app teamed up with the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University to collect data on young people's views on political power.
According to the 2020 study, 83% of people ages 18 to 29 surveyed believed they had the power to change the country, and 60% of those surveyed felt they were part of a movement that would vote to express its views.
"It is important for young people to run for office and be involved at all levels of government because it will be our generation that has to deal with the consequences, both positive and negative, of policies and laws being passed and implemented now," Scholl said in the email. "Young people should fight for a seat at the table."
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