The League of Women Voters of Ventura County (LWVVC), a nonpartisan organization aimed at informing and engaging voters, hosted a “Get Out the Vote” kick-off brunch on Saturday, Sept. 15 at the Los Robles Greens Club in Thousand Oaks.
The brunch intended to discuss issues affecting registered voters, increase league activities in east Ventura County and train members on how to register young voters in advance of the Nov. 6 general midterm elections.
“The whole idea is to educate members and guests about defending democracy today and empowering voters,” said Carol Lindberg, a longtime board member at LWVVC.
The League of Women Voters is a national, non-partisan organization founded in 1920 to help “women carry out their new responsibilities as voters,” according to the LWVVC website. The league is active in over 700 communities, with membership open to men since 1974. One of LWVVC’s main activities during election years is hosting forums featuring candidates for local office, according to the website.
The brunch event featured two guest speakers, including California Lutheran University Professor and Chair of Political Science José Marichal, who spoke about the effect of social media on politics. Tim Allison, a professor of political science at California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI), spoke about the history of voting rights in the U.S. and where progress still needs to be made.
The brunch was open to the public, but attracted a group of almost 60 LWVVC members.
Marichal spoke about issues such as Russia’s involvement in the 2016 presidential election and Cambridge Analytica. He emphasized the lesser-known problem of how social media’s personalized platform makes it difficult to acquire the information necessary to be a well-informed citizen. He said he believes the transition away from traditional news sources is a threat to democracy, and makes other threats significantly harder to overcome.
“Voter apathy is a big threat, because very few people vote that can vote. Then if we have a toxic information environment because of social media, it’s going to make young people even more apathetic and even less likely to want to exercise their rights,” Marichal said.
Marichal was followed by Allison, who covered the expansion of voting rights from the era of George Washington when only six percent of the electorate could vote. Allison said that issues such as voter suppression, gerrymandering and representation for U.S. territories and the District of Columbia remain as politicians are more concerned about “tactics than inclusivity.”
A major theme of the event was engaging young voters ahead of the midterm elections. Marichal said that voter turnout for people under the age of 30 remains around 20 percent, and that more outreach and social pressure are needed to raise this number.
“People under 30 have a right to be cynical about politics. The problem is that they’re in a position where they’re facing unique challenges,” Marichal said. “Lots of questions that affect the quality of your life in the next 10 years are on the table, and if you let people that are older than you make those decisions, they’re not necessarily going to make the right decisions.”
In an email interview, Rep. Julia Brownley, who represents Conejo Valley residents in Congress, also commented on the importance of young people getting involved in the upcoming elections. She called the midterm elections the “most important of her lifetime.”
“From college affordability to civil rights, to access to healthcare – all of the policy issues at stake in this election affect college students, and voting in the election is how you get to have a say,” Brownley said in an email interview.
LWVVC said they hope to increase young voter turnout, and Patterson trained a group of about 15 LWVVC members on how to register high school voters.
“Young people are going to be living the effects of these elections,” Patterson said. “If there are issues that they think are important to be addressed, even if they don’t feel personally that their vote individually will make a difference, getting involved, getting knowledgeable about the issues, and beginning to form opinions and seek out candidates that reflect their opinions and their desires for the future, it’s a good place to start.”
LWVVC will host 12 forums leading up to the Nov. 6 midterm elections. A forum featuring candidates for Thousand Oaks City Council will be held at the Thousand Oaks Civic Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17 from 7- 9 p.m.