“Being Involved Is What Makes Democracy”: Galvanizing DVC Students to Vote


Photo by Phil Scroggs on Unsplash

As the Nov. 8 midterm elections approached, first-year student Kyri Laltoo sat on a bench in the Diablo Valley College Commons beneath the shade of a tree, sharing what he considered to be one of the obstacles to student voter turnout.

“I don’t like how, you know, there are two different campaigning parties and they’re all like ‘this is better’ or ‘that is better,’ and you don’t really know unless you put in a lot of work to really uncover the truth,” he said.

Laltoo’s sentiment isn’t uncommon among his peers. In the 2014 California general election, only 52 percent of eligible youth were registered to vote – more than 20 percent less than other age groups, according to the California Secretary of State. And when it came time to vote, only 8 percent of people in the 18-24 age group cast a ballot.

These numbers improved in the 2018 midterms, when youth voter registration rose to 61.6 percent and actual voting within the 18-24 age group reached 27.5 percent.

But according to Shawn Gilbert, co-chair for voter services at the League of Women Voters Diablo Valley, there is still much work to be done.

“Multiple generations fought so hard for these rights, and it’s our responsibility, as those who come after, [to] stand on their shoulders, to fight to keep them,” said Gilbert, a retired educator.

The League – a national non-profit organization founded in 1920, just months prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote – continues to play an active role registering voters, providing voter information and advocating for voting rights more broadly.

Another member of the organization, Marian Shostrom, who studied law and worked for five years as a librarian at DVC, said there are easy resources and websites where people can register to vote in the upcoming election. Shostrom had a particular message for young voters.

“You have so much power!” she said, urging students across Contra Costa County to get educated and participate in the November midterms. “Being involved is what makes democracy.”

Nonetheless, according to Chanelle Win, Vice President of Legislative Affairs for Associated Students of Diablo Valley College (ASDVC), voter apathy among students remains high.

“We as students can feel like the bills don’t affect us directly,” Win said. “People have so many other responsibilities and stuff to do that we forget that the main solution is choosing a good leader that represents us.”

One initiative that ASDVC is participating in is the 2022 Ballot Bowl, a friendly competition among all California colleges and universities to get as many students registered to vote as possible. Students who have already registered to vote can re-register and even non-students can register under DVC’s name to count toward the school’s score.

Another useful website where students can get informed is VotersEdge.org, which shows users their personalized ballot and all relevant information when they enter their zip code or address. A joint project of MapLight and the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, VotersEdge.org provides viewers quick, easy access to all voting information without bias, serving as a platform for candidates and proposition advocates to make their case.

MapLight is a nonpartisan nonprofit working on issues such as online transparency, voter information and civic technology. League of Women Voters of California Education Fund is the sub-branch of the League of Women Voters that operates within California, and provides financial support for education and outreach throughout the state.

An additional site, EasyVoterGuide.org, provides a concise and easily accessible infographic that aims “to make nonpartisan information about why vote, how to vote and what’s on the ballot accessible to as many Californians as possible,” according to the organization. Founded in 1994, EasyVoterGuide.org was the result of a collaboration by the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund, the California State Library and the Common Knowledge Group.

Todd Farr, DVC’s program manager for student life and a member of the school’s Civic Engagement Advisory, has worked in the past helping grow voter registration. This year, he said, “Student Senate for California Community Colleges and our Bay Region III are leading efforts with ASDVC to promote voter registration.”

As a result, a newly established Voter Registration kiosk has been set up in the DVC Library. Farr added, “DVC has had a Civic Engagement Advisory for the past couple of years, composed of faculty, staff, students and community members such as the League of Women Voters that have helped with our Civic Engagement Plan.”

Additionally, he said, the Civic Engagement Advisory “works with the local community groups such as Monument Impact, Independent Living Resources and the Contra Costa County Clerk-Recorder-Elections Department and MoveOn.org in Contra Costa who table and promote voter registration in our commons.”

Ms. Gilbert, Ms. Shostrom and Mr. Farr are not strangers to working together on the campus. Mr. Farr said, “We have partnered with the League of Women Voters for over a decade. They have tabled in the Commons promoting voter registration, participated in Constitution Day as presenters, and offered DVC students internships with their organization.  We have also worked with the County Clerk’s Office and they have brought their Voter Registration van to DVC to promote voter registration.”

Win said that in addition to working with the Civic Engagement Advisory, the ASDVC is considering “setting up voter registration tables, as well as having computer labs in the Student Union Building or the library, with QR codes to make sure that everything is accessible and streamlined.”

“Some people still don’t know that we can register to vote online, or vote through mail ballots,” she said.

Here are some voting resources that students can turn to ahead of the upcoming midterm elections happening on Nov. 8:

Register to Vote — When prompted about assistance in completing the form, please list “ASDVC” as a helper, and select “Diablo Valley College” as your school. This can be done even if you are already registered, in order to increase engagement towards the 2022 Ballot Bowl..


Voter’s Edge


Easy Voter Guide


DVC Library News Brochure


DVC Voter Registration Guide