#ChalkTheVote: Arizona families hit the sidewalks to encourage voting

Krish Yoder, far left, Max Golden, Riaan Yoder and Peter Yoder take part in #ChalktheVote on Oct. 18 outside the Yoders’ Phoenix home. They were one of nearly 300 Arizona families who told ParentsTogether they would participate in the event. (Photo courtesy of Divya Yoder)

Left: An estimated 16,500 families across the country told ParentsTogether they wanted to participate in #ChalkTheVote. The Yoder family created messages to show unity and strength before the election wraps up on Nov. 3. Right: The nonprofit ParentsTogether is encouraging families to be creative in their chalk messages, such as a “voting plan hopscotch.” (Photos courtesy of Divya Yoder)

PHOENIX – Divya Yoder and her family were out on the sidewalk in front of their home one recent Sunday, writing chalk messages to encourage their neighbors to vote.

“Vote early,” one read. “United we stand,” read another.

The Yoders weren’t the only family taking chalk to concrete with similar messages in recent days. Hundreds of Arizonans were doing the same, along with thousands of families across the country as part of #ChalkTheVote, which was created by the non-profit organization ParentsTogether to urge families to vote Nov. 3.

(Audio by Mitchell Zimmermann/Cronkite News)

Yoder, the mother of two young boys, wanted them to understand the importance of voting – a right that isn’t available to everyone.

“You know, we live in a community with our loved ones, friends, neighbors, and children, and some of them don’t have the privilege and we make the decisions to vote for ourselves and for the ones around us,” said Yoder, who immigrated to the U.S. from the United Kingdom when she was 5, became a U.S. citizen six years ago and voted for the first time in 2016.

Yoder, who’s of East Indian descent, said her background has informed her views on the right to vote, and what she wants her sons to understand.

“You know, being able to educate our children, especially myself, being an immigrant, we just want to empower them and give them the right tools to allow them to make those decisions.”

The #ChalkTheVote campaign, which launched Oct. 18, also gave families such ideas as creating mosaics and hopscotch games, which the Yoder family drew as well.

According to ParentsTogether, a similar campaign in 2018 generated 1.2 million voting reminders across the nation.

This year, about 290 Arizona families signed up for #ChalkTheVote, and nearly 16,500 families across the U.S. showed interest, according to Ailen Arreaza, a spokesperson for the organization.

This election is more important than past elections, she said.

“We’ve lost so much power and control this year, because of things that we cannot control, but voting is something that … everyone who’s eligible can do,” Arreaza said, “and it can make a difference in the lives of our children and their futures.”

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More than 73-million people in the U.S. already have voted in this general election, according to the U.S. Elections Project, putting early voting at greater than 43% of all votes during the 2016 election. More than 1.8 million Arizonans already have voted in person or by mail as of Oct. 28.

In past elections, the organization asked parents to bring their children to the polls and snap a selfie with them, but the COVID-19 pandemic has put that on hold.

“People may not feel safe taking their kids to the polls. You know, kids like to touch everything,” Arreaza said. “So we thought, well, we still want to encourage families to talk about voting with their kids to make it a family experience.”

Arreaza said this effort allows for parents to stay safe while also teaching kids a lesson.

The goal of ParentsTogether is to “cover the latest research, policies, and trends affecting kids and families, so busy parents have the information they need to help their families thrive” according to the organization’s website.

Yoder said the most important lesson for her boys to take from #ChalkTheVote is how important it is to vote.

“At the end of the day, when our children grow up, they’re going to turn to us and be like, ‘Did you? Did you vote?’ And we’re going to say, yes, we took the time … to vote because we want to be able to drive change, we want our voices to be heard.”

Mitchell Zimmermann mit-chell zim-mer-mann (he/him/his)
News Broadcast Reporter, Phoenix

Mitchell Zimmermann expects to graduate in May 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in political science. Zimmermann, who is interning with NBC Nightly News and has interned with 12 News, PBS NewsHour and KTAR, is working for the Phoenix news bureau.