How Three Alliance Network Orgs Are Engaging in the Legislative Session

Young people turned out in big numbers across the country for the midterm elections. Now, youth organizers in the Alliance Network plan to finish the job by holding elected officials accountable to young people. 

Alliance Network organizers are deep into their legislative sessions, and we’re excited to share what they’ve been up to! We asked Alliance staff members to share what legislative work in the network they’re most excited about Here is what they had to say…

Virginia Student Power Network

With the state of Virginia’s legislative session wrapping up this week, we are highlighting Virginia Student Power Network’s (VSPN) work to push back against state legislation that could potentially be harmful to students and young people across the state. 

VSPN is strongly opposing HB1387, which would amend a section of the Code of Virginia that would prevent transgender student athletes in K-12 schools and higher education institutions from participating in team sports based on their gender identity. 

VSPN is also working to protect students and prevent law enforcement from having a presence in schools. SB920 would create a new classification of armed law enforcement in elementary and secondary schools in Virginia called “School Protection Officers.” 

Youth organizers at VSPN are also working to shut down a bill that would create more opportunities for law enforcement officers to interact with drivers by lifting the state’s ban on pretextual stops–which would allow police to stop drivers for things like a missing light on their license plate or driving with a brake light out. Harmful legislation like this gives police more power and creates more opportunities for people to interact with law enforcement.

Despite the amount of defensive work happening this session, VSPN has so much to be proud of! They’ve successfully fought back on anti-abortion legislation in their state, and are fighting hard in support of SB1523, a bill that would offer a pathway for those incarcerated with marijuana-related crimes to be resentenced or have their sentence vacated.

Virginia Student Power Network is persistent on wrapping this legislative session up on a high note as they continue to stand up for students and young people in their state this legislative session and beyond!

Virginia Student Power Network

Chicago Votes

Chicago Votes is advocating for voters impacted by the legal system under their initiative Unlock Civics. This program breaks down the barriers set up by the legal system to prevent these folks from participating in our democracy. 

In 2019, Chicago Votes successfully advocated for legislation that requires county jails and election officials to ensure citizens who are in jail awaiting trial can cast their ballot during elections, and ensures those released from custody are provided voter registration and voting rights information. Recently, the Chicago Votes team dropped off thousands of municipal voter guides at the Cook County Jail.

Chicago Votes also helped pass legislation that requires every person leaving the prison system receive civic education classes. In 2021, this program was expanded to require that the Department of Juvenile Justice provide a civics education workshop to youth leaving the system.

Photo from Chicago Votes on Twitter

This year, Chicago Votes is fighting to restore voting rights to people currently in the prison system. Since 2020, they’ve been advocating for the “Voting in Prison” bill which would restore voting rights to people incarcerated in Illinois, post conviction. If passed, this would make Illinois the first state to restore voting rights to people in prison, making it one of just a few places in the US that allow incarcerated citizens to vote. Chicago Votes is working for this bill to pass this year to give roughly 35,000 more people in Illinois the power to vote in time for the 2024 elections.

The Washington Bus

The Washington Bus has been advocating for issues important to young people at the state and local levels for over a decade! And, this year, youth organizers at Washington Bus are taking their democracy work to the next level.

Youth organizers are pushing for pro-voter policies like removing the driver’s license requirement to register online, and advocating to be the first in the country to enfranchise 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in state races. 

At the local level, Seattle voters get to use Democracy Vouchers to direct public financing to candidates they support. This year, WA Bus is advocating to expand this program to statewide races, allowing all voters to have a say in where their money goes!

Washington Bus also advocates for ranked choice voting for presidential primaries, which would give voters a better opportunity to choose candidates who best represent their values. Washington Bus is working to reimagine a democracy that is more innovative, accessible, and equitable for their community! All of these policies are possible when young people have a seat at the table. 

The Washington Bus

The Work on the Inside

The Alliance staff provides youth organizers and senior leadership staff in the network with the opportunity to build community with other Alliance Network staffers in our cohort spaces. To kick off the year, we gathered the Communications Cohort, Data Cohort, and the Program Cohort to talk about navigating their legislative sessions. Attendees shared how they’re navigating the legislative session, teams completed a narrative building exercise, and we shared resources for rapid-response work and data tracking!

Stay tuned for more updates from us on the work happening across the network and behind-the-scenes at the Alliance. Want to receive these updates via email? Join the Alliance Allies list today and get the inside scoop on how we’re supporting our network this year through strategic planning and capacity building.