I work at a new youth-led call center that is changing the face of politics. This phone bank center, located in Los Angeles, is run by young people like me who want to make our voices heard this election. We’re hard at work trying to talk to young people—especially young people of color—via phone and text. Our goal is reach and mobilize 52,000 young people in L.A. County and 100,000 statewide to vote in the November midterms.
To be honest, this isn’t the sort of job I imagined myself doing when I was younger. When I was growing up in Los Angeles, my family was apolitical. My mom couldn’t vote because of her migratory status, so we didn’t keep up with politics. But I had a sense, even then, that things were wrong in the world, especially as the rising rents in our East L.A. neighborhood started pushing residents out.
Things changed when I connected with youth justice organizations in Los Angeles. A friend told me about United Students and Inner City Struggle, and I started getting involved. These organizations taught me about the issues, words for things I had experienced (like gentrification and environmental racism), the value of being involved in politics and how to organize. I felt awed to be involved in their work and to have some power to make the world fairer.
I’ve always wanted a job where I could make a difference, so I was very excited to start working for Power California as a youth organizer. Power California is a nonprofit that is galvanizing young people to vote and use their voices, especially young people of color that are underrepresented in the political process.
A few weeks ago, Power California released a new poll focused on California youth like me. A majority of respondents had participated in a boycott of a company in the last year for political reasons. Almost everyone had discussed politics with families and friends in the last year, and about half identified with big social movements like Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ equality, and Dreamers. Above all, young people were eager to vote. In fact, 91 percent described voting as important.
This might surprise you, because turnout among young people is usually pretty low—16 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds voted in the June primary–but it didn’t surprise me. After hundreds of calls, I already knew the trade secret: young people don’t vote because they’re not asked to.
When I talk to young people, they have many opinions on what their community needs. Young people are passionate about how the government works for their families, schools and communities, and they want to make the world a better place. They’re just not sure how. Our success at Power California shows why we need to invest time and resources in talking to young people about why voting is important and give them the details about how to do it. Call, text, knock on doors and make sure young people know an election is happening.
I’m excited to see how many of my peers make their voices heard on election day. My story is proof that when organizations invest in young people, they become more active in politics. That’s why it’s so important for campaigns, the government and organizations like mine to get out there and talk to young people about the issues they care about–housing, immigration, the environment and racial justice.
So, to state and local campaigns, my advice is to spend more time on young voters. My calls show me just how much young people care about the world around us. Your calls will, too.