Political activism runs deep through my veins, bleeding blue both literally and politically. My political pedigree begins with my grandmother. Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga was at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and 70’s, fighting for the rights of minorities nationwide. Soon after, she was instrumental in the redress movement that awarded Japanese Americans with restitution for their wrongful incarceration during WWII. My father, Warren Furutani, was a young leader in the civil rights movement, mobilizing various generations to fight for the rights of Asian Americans and minorities as a whole. My father began his professional political career with his election to the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, the L.A. Community College District Board of Trustees, and currently the State Assembly.
The Civil Rights Movement was the intersection for these two generations, as my father first met my grandmother in New York City while attending various meetings. This was the instance that led to the introduction between my parents. I can honestly say that I am a product of the Civil Rights Movement.
My political activism was instilled during my earliest years, starting in the arms of my father while campaigning to become the first Asian American to be elected to the LAUSD Board of Education. Campaign fundraisers, political rallies, and precinct walking have been a regular part of my life. I have never missed an election since becoming eligible to vote, voting in person at my home polling location since 2003. Even during my college years, I would make the torturous trek down the 405 Freeway to take ten minutes to perform my civic duty.
Reprehensibly, I find that the majority of my friends and acquaintances around my age are non-participants in the political process. Voter apathy, whether it is due to the lack of personal value of an individual vote, the meaning of performing a civic duty, or general political awareness, is prevalent in our youngest, voter-eligible generations.
To their credit, voting can be a daunting task. As I flip through the pages of the voter guide I received in the mail, it would be extremely time-intensive to get a complete grasp of the political platforms of each candidate and the underlying basis of each proposition. Voting in 13 statewide contests, multiple district contests, and on nine propositions can prove to be more overwhelming than a midterm, final examination, or job interview.
Aside from reactions to Meg Whitman’s limitless campaign (personal) financing, Proposition 19 received a great amount of attention, evident on my Facebook news feed. The legalization of marijuana, more for the safety of personal use rather than for state revenue purposes, was of particular interest for young voters. Proposition 19 didn’t pass. Proposition 25 would change the legislative vote requirement to pass budget and budget-related legislation from two-thirds to a simple majority. It passed by less than five percent. A budget that is passed on time will ensure the delivery of services to Californians. The elimination of the two-thirds vote disables the minority party from extorting the Legislature by “selling” their budget vote. Where was the interest and concern for this proposition? Political prioritization is the issue here. What is important to young voters? Educating this important voting body will align them to make informed political decisions.
I was talking to my friend online on Election Day and he was not planning on voting. I finally convinced him to perform his civic duty and he immediately drove to his local polling place. Upon getting to the front of the extensive line, he was told that he was not registered to vote at that location and was turned away. He took the long walk-of-shame to the exit, discouraged by the embarrassing experience.
It seems as though there is so much out there that is discouraging our youngest generations from voting. How do we encourage higher voter participation? Motivation can be generated by connecting their priorities with political issues. This can also come in the form of voter education, including registration, absentee ballots, and polling locations. Using my friend as an example, although easily discouraged, we must continue to motivate young voters to empower themselves through civic participation.
Joey T. Furutani works in the field of strategic communications and is a graduate of UCLA. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.