by Luis Cubas
It’s no secret that one of the groups least likely to register, or vote, is the youth. Now, a local group is hoping to help change that trend.
September 23 is National Voter Registration Day, a nationwide campaign coordinated with volunteers and organizations to educate and reach out to to voters, while guiding them step by step through the registration process and helping them find their voting location.
In Richmond, one of the organizations helping to register voters on National Voter Registration Day is the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, a national nonprofit aimed at increasing civic involvement.
“We do some advocacy work in that we encourage people to vote in ways that are most equitable and democratic,” said Kia Croom, President of the League of Women Voters West Contra Costa County. “The other part is our voters services in which we get people registered to vote.”
Croom said there are many barriers young people face when it comes to voting. They include, not understand the process, believing that their vote doesn’t matter, feeling that they don’t have a wide variety of choices, and not feeling engaged by politicians.
“Nowadays, I feel like being able to vote just means picking the candidate that’s going to make our situation in the United States of America a little less bad,” 21-year old Anthony Martinez said when asked what voting meant to him.
But, after years of high-profile events showing injustices levied on young people, some younger, would be voters are finding new interest in political involvement.
“I would say events like Ferguson have made me think about politics a lot more,” Christopher Velazquez, 21, said, referencing the shooting of an unarmed, black teenager in Ferguson, MO earlier this summer. “If the community really had a strong say in what happens in their community, things like this would be avoided.”
In order to make a difference and bring change in their communities, many young people have come to understand what a difference their vote can make.
“The injustice that has been happening throughout the U.S. makes me reconsider voting in order to create a positive change and makes me want to have a safer community for my family and friends,” Dalia Ramos, 20, said.
For other young people, the problem of registration is first the hurdle. “I’ve only voted once and that was the Presidential vote,” Xavier Polk, 20, said. “I do not remember the steps.”
It’s voters like Polk that the League of Women Voters is hoping to reach during its Sept. 23 registration drive. To this end, the group will set up three locations throughout West Contra Costa County.
“We will be tabling at local campuses, at local high schools and even at Contra Costa College because we want to encourage as many young people and young adults as possible to get registered to vote,” she said.
At 9:00 a.m., volunteers will be at Contra Costa College, located on 2600 Mission Bell Drive. At noon, they’ll have two booths running at the same time. One at Richmond High School, 1250 23rd street, and the other at Kennedy High School, 4300 Cutting Blvd.
In 2008, six million Americans did not vote, many because they missed the registration deadline, or because they did not know how to register, according the National Voter Registration Day website.