In 1952, an army of Scouts — all too young to vote themselves — launched an unprecedented campaign to get out the vote.
They added crepe-paper streamers and homemade “Vote” signs to their bicycles.
They went block by block delivering 30 million Liberty Bell-shaped doorknob hangers that read “Today’s Youth Counts on You. Use Your Freedom to Vote.”
They pestered their parents to vote, offered to babysit neighbors’ children so moms and dads could head to the polls, and formed mock picket lines in crowded shopping areas — all in an effort to fight what Scouting magazine called “political indifference — the arch-enemy of free democracy.”
“Never before in the history of our nation has any organization been in position to deliver so vital a message to every household in the land,” Scouting magazine wrote in 1952.
Sixty-eight years later, the BSA’s duty to country hasn’t changed. And neither has our message: “Vote as you think. Think when you vote. But VOTE!”
That slogan from 1952 is a reminder that the BSA has no political affiliation — no preference for one candidate or party over another. The Scouting movement is loyal to America, and as Scout volunteers, we prepare young people to be good citizens in their communities. That includes empowering young men and young women to participate in their democracy.
This year, as millions of Americans start the process of voting, we’re continuing our tradition of helping others “Be Prepared to Vote.”
Election Day Ten Essentials
When you pack for a Scouting adventure — a hike, paddle or weekend camping trip — you always pack the Ten Essentials.
You wouldn’t leave without a flashlight, rain gear, and map and compass.
This year, if you choose to vote in person, that ultimate act of patriotism could be its own kind of adventure. It might be cold or rainy. You could get hungry. The line might be long. All that, plus you’ll want to limit any potential exposure to the virus.
And so we’re helping you “Be Prepared to Vote” with the Election Day Ten Essentials.
You might already have most of the items around your house. If you don’t, we’ve provided some helpful links where you could get these items and show off your Scouting pride at the same time.
- State-approved identification or any other documentation your precinct requires for you to vote
- Your face covering, which you can make yourself from a neckerchief by following these steps from Boys’ Life
- Hand sanitizer
- Water bottle or hydration pack so you can stay hydrated without having to leave the line (Advice: Many locations have deactivated their water fountains during the pandemic, so you’ll want to bring your own water. If you choose a hydration reservoir with a drinking tube, you can sip without having to remove your face covering.)
- Sun protection, including a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, if you’ll be waiting outside
- Poncho or rain jacket in case of foul weather
- Flashlight/lantern if you’re heading to the polls after dark (Remember: Daylight saving time ends two days before Election Day, so it’ll get dark earlier.)
- Folding stool for take-anywhere seating that can easily be packed away once you get to the front of the line (or you can go for total comfort with this folding rocking chair.)
- Portable charger to keep your device’s battery in the green all day
- Protein bars or other snacks you can open and eat without touching the food with your hands
Back to that 1952 election
While Scouts can’t claim credit for every vote on Election Day 1952, the numbers are pretty convincing.
Since 1908, no presidential election has had a higher voter turnout than that one, according to The American Presidency Project. The 63.3% turnout far exceeds the percentages from recent elections (55.7% in 2016, 54.9% in 2012).
Today, the BSA is helping voters “Be Prepared to Vote” in a different way — continuing a tradition that dates back generations.
The impact is no less significant. By encouraging young people to take an interest in the political process now, we’re preparing them to exercise their right to vote in the future.
Or, in the words of Scouting magazine from 1952, we’re making it so “it will not be easy for these young people, when they come of age, to ignore the most precious right, the right to vote.”
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