Getting Our Community to the Polls: Youth Perspective

 

By Hye Joo
New Organizing Project blogger
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OK. I have quick question for our readers this Monday morning: what is an important event that’s coming up in early November?

Everyone is in agreement? Yes! The midterm elections on November 2!

As part of KRCC and NAKASEC’s Power Vote 2010 campaign, volunteers are hitting the phones, streets and working with the media to encourage our community to vote! Here to tell us a little bit about the voter outreach and education experience in Chicago are two members of our Building Sisterhood Program (who also interned with me at KRCC over the summer), Yunjeong Ji and Hyunji Kim!

 

Q: Can you tell us some of the activities you were involved in to encourage Korean Americans to vote?

Hyunji: I helped make visuals, like banners and posters, for our voter registration drives, education outreaches and press events. I also participated in these activities.

Yunjeong: I gradually got involved – first a voter education workshop and then a mock voter registration drive. These activities helped me prepare for the real outreaches at local markets. I also did phone banking to Korean American voters in the 10th Congressional District, which has the most registered Korean American voters here in Chicago.

Q:  Why did you get involved in volunteering?

Hyunji: Having first worked on election outreach as an intern, I realized the impact I was having on the community. I wanted to do more and help educate the community on the upcoming election, and also about the DREAM Act. So after the internship, I began to volunteer.

Yunjeong: I learned about the importance of voting as an intern, which got me to volunteer. Now I know from first hand experience that KRCC’s election work is really critical because there is no other organization that provides comprehensive bilingual outreach, assistance and education efforts to Korean American voters.

Q: Is there a memorable volunteer moment you’d like to share?

Hyunji: TV interview was the most memorable because it was my first time. It was great because I was able to reach people, young and old, whom I otherwise wouldn’t haven’t been able to.

Yunjeong: I actually have a surprising moment: how I met so many eligible voters who were not registered to vote and still chose not to vote because of their limited English proficiency and lack of information. Many people who registered through KRCC did so after learning that KRCC provides election and candidate related materials in Korean (all nonpartisan). I just remember thinking how it would be really neat if the 2010 Census results would show the Chicago Korean American population surpassing the requirement to receive complete bilingual service and materials for future elections. Can you imagine? 20,000 Korean Americans at polling places on Election Day? Amazing.

Q: How do you feel about the volunteering?

Hyunji: I had a lot of fun doing voter registration drives at Korean markets. It was challenging because I’m shy and I speak quietly. But every time I was able to register a new voter, I felt like I accomplished something great.

Yunjeong: Voting is so important because that’s how we voice our needs and demands to the elected officials who represent us. Voting is a right and a privilege that is often neglected and undermined, but citizens have to start connecting community growth with voting. This is the easiest way to express our demands and show our power. Volunteering to help people realize this is empowering.

Q: Is there anything you want to tell young people?

Hyunji: I would recommend all youth to volunteer for a GOTV campaign. I think it’s an invaluable experience especially for youth who are ineligible to vote. Just imagine all those people who are voting are the decision makers. They, not you, get to decide what the society you live in will look like. Then you should at least go out and educate these voters on important community issues and get them to vote and make positive changes for the community.

Yunjeong: There are so many people who cannot vote even if they wanted to. So those who can vote have the responsibility to vote for the betterment of the community. People are always complaining about politics, politicians, broken system and being disillusioned. Well, here’s my solution: Vote and make a difference!

 

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