How to turn non-voters into new voters

Young people said to be key this year

Isabell Rivera OW Contributors | 10/22/2020, midnight

Voting has always been a crucial part of democracy. During the last presidential race in 2016, many would-be voters turned into non-voters. They either believed the system was dubious or they weren’t convinced by the presidential candidates represented. Instead of voting for the candidate who shared somewhat of the same beliefs as the people, many citizens chose not to vote at all, giving the opponent in the race a silent vote, so to speak.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than 100 million American citizens didn’t vote in 2016.

This year might be different.

The political climate is polarized, due to our divisive president, police brutality nationwide, along with the pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus and the health disparities it revealed. As a result, many young people of color are eager to hit the voting booths, hoping to tackle systemic racism and inequality, according to data collected by the Advancement Project.

The collected data is part of the organization’s “Young Voters of Color Get Out the Vote” campaign. Their goal is to encourage young voters of color to vote in the November election since underrepresented groups make up one-third of all American citizens who are able to vote in 2020.

The research surveyed 1,915 qualified African-American, Pacific Islanders, Latinx, Native, and Asian American young voters, and results show they are more enthusiastic to vote, targeting issues they care about.

“Young voters like me are anxious to get to the November election and are scrambling to understand the voting environment,” said Kelsey Perine, a member of Advancement Project’s Young Voters of Color Advisory Committee and a senior at Southern University and A & M College in Baton Rouge, La. “For young people, it can be hard to register in states like Louisiana, and it can be challenging to sift through information to learn what is true and untrue. We need to hear about the issues we care about and what to do if we get turned away from the polls.”

Key revelations of the polling show that although young people from underrepresented communities are usually more skeptical in regards to politics, many decided to be engaged in their communities and joined protests—27 percent reported to have protested. And 25 percent joined charities or non-profits as a volunteer this year.

But young people of color also showed concern and confusion regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 and new voting procedures.

Data also shows many young people of color especially, feel stamped out of political conversations. Last but not least, the message of voting as a “duty of all citizens in a democracy” didn’t find common ground with young people of color eligible to vote.

“Young people of color have led the racial justice movement this summer with significant wins around policing,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project. “They are leading racial justice campaigns in the streets and intend to vote on the issues that mean the most to their communities this fall.”

Collected data also shows that 78 percent of young people of color eligible to vote took more political actions in 2020, such as signing a petition, protesting, or posting and sharing content on social media.

“National, state and local groups reaching out to young people of color during the election season should talk explicitly about racism, injustice, and inequality,” Advancement Project Program Director Jorge L. Vasquez Jr. said. “We must continue educating young voters about how to safely and securely cast a ballot in 2020. Clear communications about available voting options will help address their understandable anxiety about unfamiliar voting methods and COVID-19 exposure at the polls.”

Dr. David Campt believes that through dialogue, people’s behavior can be changed. Where many believe campaign strategies are the key to turn discouraged- or non-voters into voters, Campt believes that in order “To solve this national problem, conversations about voting need to make people feel empowered.”

Campt, who is a national facilitator and renowned speaker, has been teaching strategies to change attitudes and behaviors.

“Too many people are voting based on what team they’re on,” Campt said. “We need more people voting based on their values, and also more people talking about their values to others. To do that, we need good dialogue skills.”

There are seven keynotes Campt uses in a dialogue which are based on neuroscience, as well as compassion to encourage non-voters to vote.

It’s important to ask questions to those wary of the process.

“One way is to ask about their concerns for their lives and for the country,” according to Campt. “Ask about voting perspectives, instead of passing judgment about their political opinion. The idea is to get young people to talk about their own experiences and reasoning.

Sharing stories and exchanging experiences can reportedly help win trust in the election process. The stories don’t have to be about voting but can have other political components. Show listeners that there are times when people felt powerless, but they transformed this feeling to empowerment. Voting can have that kind of impact.

Another tacic is to point out the fact that many people would like to vote but can’t vote, such as legal aliens, immigrants, children and those who are incarcerated. People who can vote can speak for those who are voiceless.

According to Campt, 60 percent of non-voters have never been asked to vote. If an acquaintance shows the slightest interest toward making a difference by voting, offer to help by taking them to the voting booth.