On Sept. 25, approximately 1,700 juniors and seniors at Reseda High School were pulled out of their classrooms for an important voting registration assembly. Students who attended this assembly were personally encouraged by Secretary of State Alex Padilla to pre-register to vote.
Along with California State Senator Henry Stern (D-Calabasas), Secretary Padilla stressed the importance of voting and the impact high school students can have on their communities. With assistance from workers from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s Office, students were able to register and pre-register to vote at this amazing opportunity.
Reseda High School’s Voter Education Assembly is part of a larger push by Secretary Padilla to pre-register eligible 16- and 17-year-olds so that they’re automatically registered to vote once they turn 18.
For many students at Reseda, especially those from immigrant families, voting registration is simply not one of the things taught to them at home. According to Padilla, that’s why it’s so imperative that time is set aside to teach high school students how to register to vote.
Moreover, for a lot of the students at Reseda, Monday’s assembly was one of the first times that they have had a chance to interact with a politician.
Princess Alaba, a junior at Reseda High School, talked about how Monday’s voting assembly was able to really open up a lot of opportunities for her by allowing her to talk to local politicians.
She says that she, “was able to see how our local government worked from the inside and how important voting and frequently participating in our small communities [is, since it] affects the way we live our daily lives.”
Ms. Alaba later commented that “By having conversations with Senator Stern and Secretary Padilla, I was able to become more informed [about] current events in our community. Being able to hold conversations with them helps a lot because they’re able to address my concerns and listen to the daily concerns we, the people of LA, have living in the valley.”
After the assembly, HS Insider was able to schedule an interview with Secretary of State Alex Padilla in order to learn more about the Secretary’s Voter Education Week initiative.
Q: I personally think it’s great that you’re hosting a High School Voter Education Week. But I’d love to know, what do you hope to accomplish through your pre-registration initiative?
A: Secretary Padilla then said that goal is to “see a significant increase in young people voting.” Historically, America’s youth (18-29) registers to vote in the lowest numbers and later on, turn out to vote in an even smaller quantity. According to Padilla, youth voters are now the largest potential voting block yet civic participation ranks the lowest for them. This pre-registration initiative seeks to promote civic education and participation and cultivate lifelong voters and active citizens.
Q: Recently, in last year’s presidential election, approximately 55% of the country’s youth didn’t vote. Why do you think this is so?
A: “I think it’s a combination of not getting it (referring to the power of voting) and because it’s simply not at the forefront of their minds.” During the assembly, Secretary Padilla shared his own anecdote explaining that when he was a high school student, he had two things in his mind, “college applications” and “senior prom”– both of which do not involve voting registration. For a lot of students, it requires a push to get them to understand the significance of voting.
Padilla is also promoting a Back to School Pre-Registration toolkit to combat this political apathy among our youth. This toolkit contains a plethora of useful information and social media resources to spread the word about pre-registration. In this toolkit, you can also find the secretary’s public service announcement, “Our Time is Now,” which can be found below.
Q: What suggestions would you make to the everyday 16- or 17-year-old as far as getting involved in this country’s political system?
A: “It’s a lot easier and more important than you think. A lot of people assume that you need to know somebody. You don’t need to know somebody.” The secretary then went on to explain that from personal experience, every campaign needs help. Campaigns essentially are “all hands on deck” situations. Since every campaign can use the help, this is an easy way to participate civically and really get a chance to share your voice and opinion on issues that matter.
Q: Recently, a legislative bill has been passed that would move California’s primary from June to March. What effect do you think this bill could have on voter participation?
A: Ranging from an increase in voter registration to an increase in civic participation, Padilla argued that it probably means “candidates will have reach out [to Californians].” One of the downfalls of having California’s primary in June was that by then, the candidates of the respective political parties were most likely set in stone. Moving the primary to March makes California more competitive and forces candidates to listen to the issues that matter to Californians.
Q: As California’s secretary of state, one of your main goals is to promote civic engagement and participation. For undocumented students, how would you recommend they go about to have their voices heard in this country?
A: “Well again. Even if you’re undocumented, you can do everything else, but vote.” Padilla then went on to discuss how undocumented students should not retreat from politics but rather advance their voice through advocacy. This includes campaigning for a candidate you really like or even participating an event expressing support for undocumented students.
Q: To our youth who are interested in politics, how would you recommend they jumpstart their career?
A: “Before getting involved, you obviously have to finish high school and likely go to college.” Helping out a local politician in campaigning can also be a great way to get your foot in the door. If you were great, it could lead to internships working in their office. However, Secretary Padilla concluded the interview by stressing the importance of an education in not only jumpstarting a career in politics but for all careers for that matter.
For more information on California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s pre-registration initiative or to pre-register/register to vote yourself, visit: http://registertovote.ca.gov/