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Arizona public university students aim to increase political awareness with new club, "3 For AZ"

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Screenshot of a 3 for AZ Zoom meeting, which is a student-run voter initiative. Courtesy: Kelli Brown

An initiative run by Arizona State University and University of Arizona students called "3 For AZ" is encouraging young Arizonans to participate in progressive politics. The organization was founded this summer amid the political despair of the U.S. COVID-19 outbreak as well as the growing attention on police brutality and racism

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The club’s members represent a range of interdisciplinary backgrounds. These members write posts on the 3 For AZ blog, breaking down relevant issues at the state and national level from a student’s perspective. The 3 For AZ website also encourages Arizonans to take a three-pronged pragmatic approach to bringing about change: learning about policy, connecting with those around you on the subject and following up with these individuals to ensure their voices will be heard.

Kelli Brown is a 3 For AZ member and third-year global health and global studies major at ASU. She is deeply interested in student engagement and is currently working on her thesis concerning youth voter practices. The Daily Wildcat spoke to Brown to learn more about the mission of 3 For AZ and the importance of local politics. 

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Daily Wildcat: Can you tell me a bit more about 3 For AZ? What is your mission? What kind of work do you do?

Kelli Brown: 3 For AZ is a club that we jumpstarted this summer after watching everything that was going on around us. We had one of our [now] members reach out to us and say ‘Hey I want to do a project. I think that there’s a lot of policy solution already in circulation that could help solve a lot of the problems that we’re seeing in the US. I think that advocating for it and helping young people understand where they can be effective outside of just protesting could be a great move.’ 

Some of our goals include helping people learn about the policies in Arizona that help produce progressive goals. That’s anything from conscious capitalism to intersectional equity. We write a blog every week that talks about some of those issues. We encourage people to reach out to three family members or friends around them that they can have conversations with about progressive policies. Obviously, there’s a lot of issues going around but we believe that there are solutions present too and that we are capable of writing solutions.

DW: Why do you think young people tend to have such low voter turnout? Is this something 3 For AZ is aiming to change? 

KB: We’re seeing really great numbers for youth voter turnout so far with pre-election polls which is amazing news. It makes me so happy to know that our generation is representing themselves in the election. That’s a huge part of what we’re trying to do. Young people have a voice and it should absolutely be represented. 

For some reason, over the last few years, our age group just doesn’t let the government know what they want to see happen—even though we’re inheriting the world that the government right now is creating. Our hope is that, in reaching out to those three people and starting a conversation within your existing social group, people will realize how much power they have as voters.

DW: I just recently mailed in my ballot and I realized that a lot of policy is very difficult to understand. What are your thoughts on making politics more accessible?

KB: Part of our website is actually decoding policy and legislation because it is so hard to read. Actually, in the next few weeks I’m hoping to publish a guide to reading legislation. Being able to navigate policy decisions is, I think, a big barrier to a lot of Americans. 

So, it is absolutely one of our goals to make it more accessible because people deserve to know what’s going on around them. When it’s legalese and this really complicated language that’s hard to understand at any education level, it’s almost like a purposeful inaccessibility. 

DW: Going into this election, what would you say to someone feeling frustrated and isolated by the political process? 

KB: One of the top reported barriers [to youth voting] is young people feeling like they don’t know enough to vote when, in reality, most people don’t know all of what’s on their ballot. So, if you’re feeling disenfranchised for that reason, I think that reaching out to resources other than news outlets and media is a great way to start making yourself educated on what’s going on around you. There’s a lot of third-party resources including our site. Ballotpedia is another great one that I love because they report objectively.

And then speaking in terms of why young people feel a bit disillusioned by federal voting processes, it’s completely understandable. I mean we’re one vote in several hundred million. So, if you’re looking to feel the immediate effects of your vote in a very personal way for you and your family, paying attention to local politics is where you want to be.

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DW: Why do you think local politics are so often overlooked?

KB: It’s hard to recognize the immediate effects that any policy has on your life regardless of where it’s coming from, whether it’s a federal or local policy. For some reason, maybe because it’s not publicized or televised the same way that federal legislation and elections are, [local politics] just feel less high stakes. But, pay attention to your local politics because it really does impact you especially if you’re still in any form of public-school system you have an immediate connection to local politics right there. 

If you’re feeling trapped in a red state as a blue identifying voter you have a lot of control over your local government in electing a candidate that maybe swings the way that you would swing. Your vote is going to have more of an immediate impact because it’s happening at a smaller scale. 

It’s also hard to find information on what kind of local policies and local government races are going on. We just recently had a debate between our federal senate candidates between Mark Kelly and Martha McSally. That was great, but it also wasn’t well publicized that that debate was happening so a lot of people I know that are actively involved in civic engagement didn’t even watch that one. You’ve got to go looking for information on your own sometimes it’s hard to get it from other places. 

DW: With your emphasis on communication and education, how are you combatting misinformation and disinformation in politics? 

KB: I think that empowerment in terms of accessibility to policy and legislation is a big piece that we’re focusing on. We want to identify these policies that are part of the government processes in circulation and that work towards the goals that social movements like Black Lives Matter are working towards.

Right now, there’s tons of emphasis on these two candidates and there’s hate toward both candidates and then there’s this really strong fan base toward them. And that feels pummeling sometimes. You open Twitter, there it is. You open Instagram, there it is. 

These routes of information that people are getting communicated to about elections and policy can be very overwhelming. I think teaching the skills or even just enabling youth to feel empowered about teaching themselves about what’s going on around them by offering them a resource from people their age about legislation … I think that can help them feel like they do have some understanding.


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