Young Voters Before & After: Liberty Hill’s Youth Vote Action
Liberty Hill’s Youth Vote Action canvassers, phone bankers and “banner droppers” mobilized in September and October at a half-dozen grassroots locations throughout L.A. County.
Some of these young community organizers voted for the first or second time. Some may never be eligible to vote but put in long hours because they care so deeply about protecting their families and communities. Many are girls and young women.
We spoke to them just before the election and then connected with as many as possible after. Listen to their voices.
Getting out the vote: “We phone banked every day from 3:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. We’re on the phones calling young registered voters between the ages of 18 and 34. We call on their cell phones because that’s the way that we believe that young voters actually pick up the phone. By far the most memorable call was a man who had never voted. He was registered, which is why we were able to contact him, and he didn’t think that his vote would make a difference. I had to be really patient with him because he was very, very pessimistic about this election, and I guided him step by step in the process and was able to successfully convince him to vote. He was really happy and we had this very insightful conversation about why his vote actually does make a difference."
My vote: “For me, the local propositions are important, especially anything that has to do with the environment, the education system and the prison system, because as a recent college graduate I know what can happen if we don’t vote for the right propositions. I can’t personally vote. I can’t vote and if I could I definitely would have already. So, everyone who is a US citizen has the right to exercise that vote: Please, please go and do it.”
Election Day: I feel disappointed, numb, and afraid. But as hard as it is to muster up faith and hope, I believe that my community will fight even stronger against oppression. Together we will heal and move forward despite the disappointment we may feel. The fight isn't over.
Blanca Villagomez, 23, Youth Vote Action phone banker at InnerCity Struggle and a recent college graduate
Getting out the vote: I mainly focused on phone banking along with occasionally precinct walking. I talked to some registered voters who were adamant about not voting and once we started discussing the reasons why they didn’t want to vote, we often came to the conclusion that their vote actually makes a difference.
My vote: (before the results) Having the opportunity to vote in such a huge election was satisfying. I didn’t know what to expect when I first walked into the voting booth, but I learned that the process was very simple. To be honest, I was reluctant to vote at first because I’m just one person, but after working as a canvasser I learned that the impact that young voters have on the election is insane. Even though it was a little nerve-racking voting on my own, knowing that I am one out of four million young voters who have the opportunity to make a difference in my community is very gratifying. I can’t wait to continue exercising my right to vote!
Kimberly Lim, 18, Youth Vote Action participant at Khmer Girls in Action
Getting out the vote: I have done precinct walking and phone banking to get out the vote with ACCE. One highlight has been talking to people who are motivated by the historic nature of this election. I feel my work has greatly impacted voter turnout because I was surprised to find the number of people who were uninformed about the election. The most important issue for me was proposition 55, because I went to public schools and I want my family to be able to go to good public schools in the future. And my family is on Medi-Cal, and I am also concerned about their ability to access affordable health care.
My vote: As a first time voter, I am excited about making my voice heard but I'm also sad because I feel like we don’t have better options for candidates.
Elizabeth Cervantes, a Youth Vote Action participant at Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) 18 years old
Getting out the vote: “We went door-to-door, knocking, making sure people would be voting. For me it was a good experience. I was surprised that someone in my neighborhood who spoke Spanish said she was already going to vote. I spoke to her in Spanish. I think she was happy that someone was out spreading the word to vote.”
My vote: “I’m excited. It’s just really, really important. My parents are Spanish speaking and my dad speaks English as well. They tried to bring awareness out to me. My dad said, ‘Make sure you’re marking the right decision.’ I’m kind of nervous but excited.”
Election Day: “I went at 7:00 a.m. It took me 30 minutes once I was in the booth, but I got some help and it turned out it wasn’t that hard. I had never voted before. If I know something’s really important I get nervous because I want to make sure I don’t do anything wrong. I’m upset about the results. I’m worried about my parents. I wonder if they’re going to get deported, if he’s actually going to build the wall. I’m talking to my friend now. She sees that the world is going to be different. It’s not a good difference.”
Maria Gonzalez, 18, Youth Vote Action canvasser at Children’s Defense Fund and a student at Long Beach Community College
Getting out the vote: I’m the team lead for the program. It means making sure all the behind the scenes work is taken care of, all the equipment set up and working. I see that our Hustle texting account is set up, all the lists are loaded. I trouble shoot throughout the day, that people have their checks on time, food is bought, updates to the program to my coordinate. I helped identify different colleges where we went to do outreach. We did phone banking October 8 through November 8 and did outreach once a week at a community college. I was impressed with the level of confidence within the team members themselves and within myself. Being able to come across with, ‘I can help you with this.’ There is a lot of apathy with Millennials and a lot of it is we need to be educated. We talk with each other about the power we really have and education is something across the board that we really care about.”
My vote: “This is my second time voting. I think it’s important and I’m really glad we’re putting an emphasis on the propositions. A lot people may not feel so excited about the national elections and I personally don’t know what the future holds for me with a new president but in being in this program I’m happy to be informed every day about these propositions. A number of them have a more direct impact on my life and my future. “
Election Day: (before results) It is a long day. Some people from our team and some highschoolers started at five a.m. to do some “banner drops” where we go to different freeway overpasses and drop banners. And then we are calling folks and it’s been great hearing how many have already gone out to vote! Then at 7:00 will be the Community Coalition gathering. This is a big first step in our movement to engage our young and Millennial people. I am excited and ready to build upon our work in the near future."
Niquise Toliver, 24 year old, Youth Vote Action team lead at Community Coalition in South L.A.
Viviana Martin del Campo
Getting out the vote: “We have some clubs in schools, at Manuel Arts and Mar Vista Gardens. One is at lunch, another is after school. We talked to the members about the election, how they feel about it. A lot of people were feeling like they were not going to vote. We told them their vote counts in a lot of ways. They’re not just voting about the present. We can’t just focus on just one part of the ballot. Because there’s always a lot of coverage around the presidential election but it’s very hard to get down to what’s going on in your own city and community and when they hear someone talk about it they start thinking, yes, I’ve got to realize where I am and help my neighbors. We get people saying, ‘Oh yes, I’m going to go vote! I didn’t know this was on the ballot.”
My vote: “I don’t turn 18 until a few days after Nov. 8. It’s frustrating! I was thinking maybe I could tell them I’m turning 18 in a few a few days but it doesn’t work that way.”
Viviana Martin del Campo, almost 18, Youth Vote Action participant at Labor Community Strategy Center
Getting out the vote: We have been doing a lot of phone outreach to a lot of local community members, not just within the Boyle Heights/East L.A. area, but also the Bell Gardens/Southeast L.A. area as well. One of the highlights for me personally has been talking to a lot of older folks. We’ve been targeting 18 to 34 year-olds but a lot of people I’ve been able to speak to are parents who speak Spanish and they seem excited and so it’s just really cool to have people excited and willing to go out and make their voices be heard.
My vote: I’m pretty passionate about bringing back bilingual education. That’s very important especially in communities like Boyle Heights and East LA. And removing the death penalty and having juveniles not be tried as adults. I think those are huge. Some folks would say, “I’m not really interested in voting,” especially because the presidential nominees, people aren’t as excited about them. But I would say, “It’s not just about the presidential nominees, it’s about the propositions that affect us, especially people of color in our communities.
Election Day: “Many communities of color have been grieving since the results from Tuesday night. I wasn't surprised, because of the racism, misogyny, patriarchy, and hate. My family and friends, especially those who are undocumented, their fear has become more traumatic than ever before. But you see, although communities of color continue to experience every form of systemic oppression, that's nothing new, we do however fear that this oppression will intensify. Especially for Queer Trans People of Color, LGBTQI, Women of Color, ALL People of Color, immigrant and Undocumented, and Muslim individuals. As many social justice activists have said, now more than ever we must stand in solidarity with each other, we must continue to organize, and we must support each other as we engage in healing practices. “
Rebecca Ramos, 24, Youth Vote Action participant at InnerCity Struggle and an MSW candidate at the University of Michigan
Liberty Hill’s Youth Vote Action Fund grantees are Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE), Children’s Defense Fund (CDF), Community Coalition, Khmer Girls in Action (KGA), Labor/Community Strategy Center, Strategic Concepts in Organizing and Policy Education (SCOPE) and Youth Justice Coalition (YJC).