It was not until I started interning with Orange County Human Relations that I learned that 2.1 million Latinos in California are currently eligible but not registered to vote, and that number continues to climb as more Latinx youth age into the electorate. The Latinx demographic that has so much to gain from political issues ranging from immigration reform to healthcare to workplace justice has a long history of disenfranchisement in this country, as do so many other underserved populations.
I am committed to ensuring that Latinx and other communities of color have greater access to the ballot box and thereby a meaningful opportunity to be heard in midterm and presidential elections.
My first stop to increase voter registration and turnout was in my local commuting, by getting involved with grassroots organizations such as Rock the Vote and My Familia Vota, counting my small victories in doors knocked, phone calls made and text messages sent. Then I started to get creative: Helping to plan a state of the union watch party, launching digital media campaigns to continue voter education and providing candidate and election information and even posting Tik-Tok reels on new ballot initiatives.
To uplift Latinx voices, I kept looking for ways to reach unregistered voters, but then it occurred to me to think about the future voters, the ones on my own high school campus who would soon turn eighteen. I did not need to wait until they were 18 to increase their civic engagement.
Why? Because I could start getting 16-17-year-olds pre-registered to vote.
Now, I am now working to launch a Voter Education Week at my high school and work in collaboration with the California Department of Education, which will include opportunities for my classmates to get pre-registered. I am also setting up booths at local libraries and community centers to encourage youth to get pre-registered and civically engaged now that when they turn 18, they are ready to cast their ballots.
The democratic process is a powerful tool for Latino advocacy and social justice, but one that’s often unvalued or overlooked. My hope is that through voter education and pre-voter registration initiatives, the Latinx community will feel more invested in the political process and motivated to shape its outcomes.