The non-profit organization creates a “party experience” to attract local voters.
By Megan Reed
Registering people can be difficult. Voter drives typically aren’t the most exciting events, and most people do not want to be bothered at the grocery store entrance. But the 2020 election is one of the most important elections in decades, so registering people to vote and educating them about what is on the ballot is extremely important.
Dustin Young and Lee Johnson, founders of Our Own, have figured out ways to attract locals to attend voter drive events. In August, they started their voting registration tour at Sip and Sonder in Inglewood. The event was more of a festive cultural experience that featured music, dancing, networking opportunities, and coffee from Sip and Sonder.
“You get like this party experience,” Young said. “We want to make things cool, fun, and educational.”
They followed that event with a 5k run/walk in Leimert Park Village. Runners, walkers, and bicyclists met up in front of Sole Folks on Degnan Boulevard, and after they participated in the run/walk, they stuck around for a block party.
These events are extremely important because 40.4 percent of eligible African Americans voters did not vote in the 2016 presidential election, which was up from 33.3 percent who did not vote in the 2012 election. At these events, people can register to vote on the spot, and people can also check to make sure that their voter information is correct.
“I checked my status, and my address wasn’t correct,” Young said. “So my ballots weren’t coming in the mail.”
These events are also important because they educate people about the local propositions, and they encourage people to vote down the ballot.
“With the elections coming up, we’re extremely hyper-focused on the President and Vice President candidates,” Young said. “But when it comes to California, we typically don’t focus on the local candidates or the propositions that are on the ballot.”
At Our Own’s events there are large boards with the propositions and an explanation of what each one is. People can also scan the QR code with their smart phone, and they will be taken to a page on Our Own’s website that gives detailed information on each proposition. The web page makes it easy for voters to understand the propositions, and gives voters the arguments for and against each proposition so that people will be prepared when they go to the ballot box.
“When you go to the (voter registrar) election web sites and look at all of these propositions, the wording can be difficult sometimes,” Young said. “You might vote against your own interest by not fully understanding what they’re asking. We want to give people the confidence to walk into the voter booth and know what the propositions are.”
When Young became an eligible voter, he admits to not being prepared for the election, like many younger voters.
“I went to the voter booth, but I didn’t know anything about the propositions,” he said. “I just voted for things that kind of made sense, using my critical thinking skills. But afterwards I didn’t know if I voted against my own interests. By my own ignorance, I may have voted the wrong person into office in the past because I was so hyper-focused on voting for the President.”
Our Own is a non-profit organization that has programs for youth mentoring, food distribution, and mental and physical health.