Originally posted at CalFWD.
By Catherine Shieh.

Do you vote regularly?

For the 1 in 8 Americans that live in California, the answer is typically “no.” Well, Kern County sees a problem with the word “no” and they’ve created a campaign to change that answer to “yes” for every election.

The “Do It For Them” campaign can be found on the Kern County Elections home page, which features a pop-up ad of a litterful of babies. Banners of young children and a 46-second ad are also on the same page to highlight the importance of protecting your right to vote (the connection between the two is revealed below).

The inspiration first came to Karen Rhea before she became Divisions Chief of the Elections by pure accident. During a heated discussion about the importance of voting with a fellow colleague three years ago, Rhea simply whipped out a picture of her niece from her wallet and stated, “I vote for her.” From there momentum gathered to create a campaign about why we have the responsibility to vote.

Rhea gathered staff’s photo contributions of their family and loved ones baby pictures, and the collection transformed into flyer collages and online ads about voting for the sake of our children. These flyers are put in local businesses and government offices, and partnerships with schools and local community colleges have helped distribute the public service announcement to parents and younger voters.

Last year the County Elections Office produced commercials for the government channel that wound up featured on some local ones. The “Do It For Them” campaign is a local project made for the local communities in Kern County to give everyone a reason to vote – and there should be no excuse for not voting.

Chief Rhea has a point, you know. People vote on behalf of their personal views, what is best for their family, and on behalf of their community as a whole.

She isn’t the only Registrar frustrated with low voter turnout. Improving voter turnout and streamlining the elections system became the primary inspiration to create the Future of California Elections (FOCE) collaboration back in 2011. This coalition features many individual registrars who are active and expert participants with their boots-on-the-ground perspective of elections administration. Since its founding, the group has highlighted various partnerships between advocates and registrars on topics like language access and voter registration.

In a recent Pew Study, California is infamous for our troubling trend of low voter turnout – in fact, it has the second lowest rate of voter turnout in the nation. There are many reasons as to why: ballot fatigue, election-jumping, frequent special elections, archaic voting laws etc. But the fact remains that voter turnout in the nation is pretty bad and voter turnout in California is abysmal. When looking at the Central Valley, the turnout is no different. Recently in Los Angeles County, only 1 in 10 people voted in a city council race.

As for Rhea and her staff, they are currently working on different strategies for improving turnout and making the campaign more effective. The state didn’t tell them to create this campaign, and their goal to increase voter turnout wasn’t mandated by anyone. For a fun project created on their own terms, she and her team don’t mind stretching their roles in the County Elections Office.

It is important for voters and potential voters to remind each other that we are all a part of the political process, and being a part of the political process here doesn’t take 10 hours waiting in line like it did in Florida. By voting or not voting, right now you are building what all children will inherit. We should be leaving things better than we found them, right?

Registrars across the state came together this month to strategize on outreach at theCalifornia Association of Clerks and Elections Officials’ Annual (CACEO) Conference. CACEO and California Forward are a part of the Future of California Elections (FOCE), a collaboration between county election officials, civil rights advocates and good government groups committed to identifying consensus-based approaches to the twin goals of increasing the effectiveness of the state’s election system while also expanding participation throughout all of California’s diverse communities.