California Secretary of State Alex Padilla held a rally at John W. North High School as part of a wider effort to encourage youth to pre-register or register to vote.
“Who is it that’s eligible but not registered? Who is it that’s registered but doesn’t vote every single time? It’s disproportionately working-class families, communities of color, and young people,” Padilla stated during his speech as he reached out to the North student body, which is nearly 75 percent socioeconomically disadvantaged.
The state has recently implemented a policy which allows teenagers that are 16 or 17 the ability to pre-register to vote. Once they turn 18, they will automatically be registered to vote.
This policy followed a presidential election wherein 55 percent of eligible millennial voters stayed at home, according to exit poll data.
The rally began with opening remarks by Riverside Unified School district President Brent Lee and student remarks by senior Cameron Allen.
Allen spoke on the importance of having the choice to vote.
“My mother told me something once, I was too ignorant to listen to her at the moment. But she told me about the importance of choice… Every vote matters,” Allen said.
Padilla’s speech highlighted his modest journey to becoming the secretary of state, hailing from a low-income family in the San Fernando Valley.
He spoke on the importance of getting involved in the community and organizing change.
“If you want government to better respond to our needs, we gotta get involved,” Padilla said. “That’s a choice that you all get to make right here, right now.”
After the speech, Padilla had a short Q&A session, student’s questions ranged from the importance of voting if affiliated with a third-party to how to jumpstart a political career.
Padilla then took a selfie with the crowd and directed them towards the booths set up in the back of the gym, where organizations like TheYouthVote helped students pre-register to vote on the spot.
The stop at North was one of many that Padilla is making to publicize the department’s new initiative. He first stopped at Sylmar High School and is expected to stop by his Alma Mater, San Fernando High School.