A voter registration drive in Richmond doubled as a community barbecue on Saturday, bringing together activists, police and even a Golden State Warrior to inspire the city’s youth to turn out to the polls come November.
Nonpartisan group For Richmond organized the drive at Nicholl Park, kicking off the event at about 11 a.m. City firefighters and police officers banded together behind a sizzling grill to cook hotdogs and hamburgers, while a slew of teenagers holding neon “Register to Vote” signs danced to Bay Area music blasting from a DJ booth.
Yenny Garcia, a Richmond resident, came out along with her husband and young daughter to enjoy the festivities.
“I wanted to bring my husband so he could register, and to help motivate other individuals to get out there and vote,” she said.
Every 20 minutes, a raffle gave newly-registered voters the chance to win coveted tickets to Beyonce and Drake concerts, as well as tickets to Warriors games.
The biggest draw, however, seemed to be the presence of Warriors power forward James Michael McAdoo, who took to a makeshift stage and impressed upon onlookers the importance of getting involved in both national and local politics.
The 23-year-old basketball star recalled his experience as a first-time voter in North Carolina, where he attended college.
“I myself had the first opportunity to vote back in 2012,” he told the crowd. “When the 2012 election came up…I went to a college in the South. Obviously, there’s still racial issues there, as well as a number of issues, and I felt like I had the opportunity to go and to have my voice heard.”
The Virginia native continued: “I’m not from here, but I feel like I am very well a part of this community, and I want to see this community blossom and come together and do better things.”
In Richmond, the number of registered voters has typically been far lower than other cities within Contra Costa County. Data from the state department released after the 2012 election showed that about 60 percent of eligible voters in the city were not registered. That percentage is roughly cut in half in wealthier areas such as Lafayette, Orinda and Clayton.
Kathy Chouteau, a communications specialist with For Richmond, said she hopes the registration drive reaches members of underserved communities.
“We want those people in underserved neighborhoods who maybe feel a little powerless to know that their voice and their vote matters,” she said.
Kyra Worthy, For Richmond’s executive director, said the nonprofit didn’t have a target set for how many people organizers hoped to register at Saturday’s drive. Instead, they were just focusing on casting as wide a net as possible.
“I really wanted to get the younger age group, 19 to 40, out and engaged,” Worthy said. “I just wanted to make sure that folks within that age group knew what their rights were, and how they can get involved.”
She added that Richmond residents who want to register but were unable to come out to Nicholl park would have other opportunities prior California’s Oct. 24 deadline. Eligible voters can also register online.
“We all need to get out there,” said Chouteau. “Whoever you’re going to vote for, just be part of the process.”
Editors note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported the nonprofit has partnered with AC Transit and will be commissioning a bus to drive around and help people register.