There was a time when Ojaala Ahmad, born and raised in Southern California, felt excited about a presidential election. She remembers starting college at Cal State Long Beach, majoring in international studies. She was ready to save the world and enthusiastic about voting for the first time.
"When I first became politically involved, when I turned 18 in college, I was very excited about the Obama campaign and you know, his whole slogan of hope and change," Ahmad said.
That was in 2008. But now Ahmad, a practicing Muslim, feels disillusioned by the current presidential race. Like a lot of millennials, she's not impressed by any of the candidates. But that apathy has made her realize that she needs to be more involved in the political process at the local level.
"We all need to know who our local candidates are, who is serving on the school board, who's running for city council because those are the people who are going to affect us directly," Ahmad says. "So it's kind of like inspired me to become more politically active at the local level because that's where I feel like I can make a difference."
That's part of the reason why Ahmad, who's now a spokeswoman for the L.A. office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), stood outside a recent election debate at the Islamic Institute of Orange County in Anaheim.
She and others from CAIR were there on their own time, passing out pamphlets about how federal and state candidates align with Muslim beliefs.
The voter guide and push to get out the vote are part of CAIR's "Muslim Vote" campaign. CAIR is hosting voter forums around the state and meet-and-greet events so the Muslim community can meet local, county and statewide candidates.
"A lot of times, people are hesitant to like take a side or vote or engage in any type of political activity simply because they're not educated or aware of how the political process works," Ahmad said.
A CAIR survey released in October finds 86 percent of registered Muslim voters plan to cast a ballot in the upcoming presidential election. That's much higher than the general American population. Only about half of American voters turned out for the last presidential election.
Inside the mosque, about 100 people gathered on folding chairs to listen to three people in a mock debate. As women wearing hijabs sat on one side of the room and men sat on the other, a Hillary Clinton-supporting Democrat, a Donald Trump-supporting Republican and a woman who doesn't like either major candidate debated election-related issues.
Safouh Tabbaa, who came to the U.S. from Syria several decades ago, was in the crowd. He tried to volunteer for the Democratic National Convention, but got turned down.
Tabbaa, retired from the clothing business, said he wants to make sure Donald Trump doesn't get in office, because he says the views of the candidate and his supporters don't align with his own. Tabbaa said he is most concerned about the economy and the future of the Muslim world.
"They keep saying every terrorist is connected to Muslims, and we are not. We are human beings, and we love the United States and this is our country," Tabbaa said. "And we work hard like everybody else. We contribute to the community. So we just -- it's wrong what they say about us."
Matthew Martinez was a bit of an anomaly at the mock debate at the mosque. He's a Latino Christian who's been fascinated by the Middle East since he was a kid. So, he studies Islam at the mosque.
He said he knows what it's like to feel marginalized. He grew up in the only Latino family in a predominantly white Anaheim neighborhood. Martinez said it feels like the Muslim community is living in fear right now.
"Communities of color are under attack and the white supremacist rhetoric from Trump, and the Republicans aren't actually condemning that behavior and it scares me," Martinez said. "I think we're fooling ourselves if we think that we can't have another Germany -- what happened in Germany during World War II. We're set for it."
Under that kind of fear, pushed along by stereotypes of the Muslim community, Martinez said it's harder to get the group more involved in the election process.
"It's hard to engage when you feel like you're under the microscope," Martinez said.
It's tough to find a Trump supporter among this crowd. The CAIR voter study found 72 percent of Muslim voters plan to vote for Hillary Clinton, with only 4 percent supporting Trump.
Islamic Institute of Orange County Imam Mustafa Umar said they're working to get people involved in politics by holding informative sessions with local candidates and debates on issues.
"We're trying. I think if you really want the Muslim community to be engaged, they need to have trust in the system and I don't think there's too much trust in the system right now that the system works," Umar says. "They think that the two-party system is not very functional. You're putting out a bunch of candidates that don't have very high respect out there."
Umar said the focus in society needs to shift for true change to happen. "I think people need to stop being so individualistic and opportunistic and just caring about themselves," he says. "If it's not against our community, it's going to be against another group of minorities or another group of people. It's just going to continue that cycle."