Engagement and Awareness Key in Encouraging Young Voters

By Chelsey See

FRESNO, CA– When asked if he will be voting this November, Fresno State student Khoua Xiong said, “No, I won’t because I haven’t registered and I haven’t informed myself enough.” Without knowing how the issues will impact him directly, Xiong says he will be sitting out this November.

“I will eventually vote when I feel as if the issues are affecting what I do. As of now I am not complaining so I see no reason to,” he said.

Xiong is like many youth who lack exposure to the key issues on the ballot, and as such, can’t find a reason to vote when the time comes to cast their ballot. But this November, voter advocates like the California State University of Fresno student body Government, Associated Students, Inc. (ASI), are working to fill the information gap for young voters, in an effort to drive more youth to the polls.

ASI is hosting a series of six voter education forums for all the propositions on the ballot to discuss the details of the measures in a nonpartisan manner, and hopefully, catch the interest of potential student voters. Proposition 1, the $7.5 million bond, for example, kicked off the series on September 23rd, National Voter Registration day.

Kiranjit Dhanjan, the ASI Vice President of External Affairs, said ASI is also working on a voter registration booth on campus that would incentivize students to register. When a student registers, ASI donates two dollars to the student organization that the registrant belongs to.

Outside of the campus, youth organization groups such as The Fresno Immigrant Youth in Action (FIYA) are encouraging young voters to speak out on immigration issues. Oday Guerrero of FIYA said it is important that young voters see how immigration issues affect their friends and family members who are undocumented. Learning about immigration issues can help motivate youth to vote because they are voting on behalf of family and neighbors who cannot vote.

However, hot topics and educational forums may not be enough to encourage some young eligible voters to get to the polls, especially if they don’t have regular access to voter events.

Trong Chang, 21 and a student at Fresno State, said her internship with the advocacy programs at Fresno Stone Soup is one of the main reasons she will vote in the November election. Fresno Stone Soup offers education and leadership programs for Southeast Asian refugees. The internship has informed Chang of policy and funding issues at the local and state levels.

Despite Chang’s exposure, she said she still doesn’t know how to solve the low turnout problem among youth.

“I don’t encourage it [civic engagement] or publicly promote it as often as I would like to,” she said. “I think the lack in advocacy for me personally is because I can’t find an effective way to promote it.”

Tim Haydock (he/him/his)
After graduating with a Bachelor’s in Communication from Fresno Pacific University and a Master’s in Theology and Film from Fuller Theological Seminary, Tim returned to his hometown community in Fresno. He spent over 5 years teaching courses on media production and theory at Fresno State University and Fresno Pacific University and was the academic advisor for the Fresno Pacific University student newspaper.

Tim joined his passions for storytelling, education and social justice in January, 2014 when he started running The kNOw Youth Media in Fresno. In May of 2016, Tim became Director of YouthWire, where he led four youth media programs across the state. In the two years Tim was director, YouthWire printed over 200,000 newspapers distributed in dailies across the state, sent reporters to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, was featured in The San Francisco Chronicle, The Fresno Bee, KQED and The New York Times’ Race/Related newsletter, and led storytelling training for over 75 youth from at least 12 different communities in California.

Tim currently serves on the journalism advisory board for Fresno City College and was a New America CA 2017 Fellow, the first from the Central Valley.

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