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From Problem Seeker to Problem Solver: How my Political Journey Led me to New Voters
By Taek Kim
“Ding dong” rang the doorbell. I would hear this sound very often while canvassing in my neighborhood for a political campaign that I was a part of. However, the ding-dongs would occasionally turn into deep conversations and realizations, and they would come to transform me and my way of thinking.
From mid-2020 to 2023, I was an intern turned manager-in-training for a local congressional campaign. The campaign asked a lot as an intern, and higher expectations would be set during the summer. Nevertheless, I found myself turning from a meek and stressed intern to a confident, motivated canvasser who found himself rising up the ranks reaching all the way to manager-in-training. My role in the campaign gave me a strong interest in politics and gave me a life-changing experience. However, an astonishing epiphany while canvassing was one that made an everlasting impact on me.
As I fully grasped the art of political canvassing, I started paying attention to patterns among residents whom I encountered. A chunk would say they have heard of the candidate I worked for, and another handful would express their support for the incumbent congressperson (the competing candidate). However, when mentioning the candidate I worked for as well as the incumbent, a huge number of residents would often answer with “I never heard of those people” or something similar to that. Situations where people not only knew the candidates participating in their district’s upcoming congressional election but also their incumbent congresswoman hinted at a problem of voter apathy and a lack of civic activity in our community.
I began to dwell on the issue and decided to write an article on it. After some research on statistics and reasons for voter apathy, I discovered that California (where I reside) had a voter turnout of 50% for the 2022 midterms, the lowest since 2014, and my county hovered just a few points above that. Reasons for voter apathy included voter fatigue (the feeling of being overwhelmed by the frequency of elections), lack of inclusivity, and the fear of not being able to make an impact. Nevertheless, the political candidates and the propositions that we vote on control a huge part of our daily lives and our community (ie. taxes, electricity, water, environment), and being apathetic to voting would also mean choosing to be silent on how we want our daily lives and our community to look like. The more I worked on the topic, the larger my passion for the issue grew.
Around mid-2023, I started to lose motivation for the campaign and experienced burnout after having to accomplish many tasks (both inside and outside of the campaign) in a very limited amount of time. Also around this time, productivity and organization in the campaign started to fall quickly. As a response to all this, my director suggested that I take an indefinite break from the campaign and come back after more structure was built into the campaign as well as when I would be ready. Keeping the issue of voter apathy in my community in mind, I decided to use my break to search and take part in opportunities that would help me address and solve the issue. I surfed on LinkedIn in search of these opportunities, and an organization called New Voters came to immediate interest.
Focused on registering or pre-registering eligible high schoolers to vote and training high schoolers to run voter registration drives that would help with achieving the mission, I thought that New Voters would be a perfect place where I could become a problem solver for the issue in my community. After being accepted into the 2023 summer cohort, I was tasked to work in the Operations team, which was responsible for establishing valuable partnerships with other organizations/conferences/people and creating curriculums to train high school students to run voter registration drives. I felt a huge sense of fulfillment, as I was in the place where I could slowly work towards fixing the issue of voter apathy in my community and make solutions happen.
To this day, I still am on my break from the campaign, and am busy working with New Voters to contribute to implementing sound solutions and resources to the communities around us to bring awareness of voting and its importance. The path to accomplishing the mission may still be farther than the moon, but until it is accomplished, our work is never done.
Khalid, Asma, et al. “On the Sidelines of Democracy: Exploring Why so Many Americans Don’t Vote.” NPR, NPR, 10 Sept. 2018, www.npr.org/2018/09/10/645223716/on-the-sidelines-of-democracy-exploring-why-so-many-americans-dont-vote.
“Voter Apathy.” Polyas.Com, 3 May 2018, www.polyas.com/election-glossary/voter-apathy.
Zavala, Ashley. “A Look at Voter Turnout in California’s Now Certified Election.” KCRA, KCRA, 17 Dec. 2022, www.kcra.com/article/california-voter-turnout-election-november-state-county/42271634#.