Youth Lead the Way in Voter Registration

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KARLA MARTINEZ/ Coachella Uninc.

COACHELLA, Calif. — College juniors Neftali Galarza and Nayeli Figueroa spent their summer vacation trekking large swaths of farmland, hoping to speak with eastern Coachella Valley residents in their homes. When the two college students finally reached a resident, many of whom are spread out across the valley in trailer parks, apartment complexes and small businesses, they had just one question for them: “Are you registered to vote?”

Starting tomorrow, volunteers across the country will begin asking their neighbors the same question. September 23, National Voter Registration Day, is a national day of action marking the start of voter registration season leading up to the November 4 general election.

In the Coachella Valley, young adults like Galarza and Figueroa are playing a key role in getting people registered. The two work for the local Indio chapter of  Mi Familia Vota, an  organization that targets Latino voters.

Latinos make up more than 70 percent of residents in the Coachella Valley, which spans 14 cities in total. In the city of Coachella alone, more than 90 percent of residents are Latino.

“If we can get the Latino community to voice their opinions and vote for the people that they want, we get can stuff done here for our community,” said Figueroa. “And there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Locally based community organizing groups such as Inland Congregations United for Change (ICUC) are placing an emphasis on enrolling young voters. In 2012 in California, more than 2 million eligible young adult voters between the ages of 18 to 24 did not show up to vote in the general election.

Karen Borjas, a community organizer for ICUC, said the group is spending extra time on educating young adults about the registration process because every time they can reach a young voter, it has a ripple effect. Once informed, the new voter carries the message to their peers at school or church, resulting in more and more young people registering to vote.

Borjas said ICUC is speaking with young adults in the community to assure them that their vote matters.

 “We run into a lot of young people who think their vote doesn’t matter,” said Borjas. “Young people think they don’t have enough experience, or they might not know where they should be voting or who they should be voting for.”

 With only a month left before the November 4 midterm election, Galarza and other volunteers are cranking up their efforts to register as many new voters as possible.

“I think we’re making a great difference,” Galarza said. “We’re giving people who didn’t have a voice, a voice.”

Mi Familia Vota and Inland Congregations for Change will be registering Coachella Valley residents on Tuesday, September 23. Mi Familia Vota will be at their Indio office at 81936 Highway 111, suite B, Indio CA 92201. ICUC will be in Mecca at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church at 65100 Dale Kiler Rd. Mecca, CA 92254.

 

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