2,040 LAUSD students registered to vote ahead of primary
Sarah Favot | June 9, 2016
One hundred and thirty Francis Polytechnic High School students enjoyed free raspados at lunchtime Wednesday as a reward for encouraging their peers to register to vote in the primary election.
During the month of May, 20 government students at the Sun Valley high school registered 150 Poly high school seniors and juniors to vote.
The school was part of the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ “LA Youth Vote” program. Funded by a LA2050 grant, the United Way dispersed $500 to each school for activities to encourage students to register and to vote. The activities varied at each school and included rallies, DJs, cookies, posters and raspados.
About 2,040 LA Unified students registered to vote at 28 schools, according to data from the United Way. About 60 percent of those students were eligible to vote in Tuesday’s primary; some were not yet 18 years old but could pre-register.
A bill by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Northeast Los Angeles, signed into law in 2014 allows students to be “voter outreach coordinators” on their campuses and to register their peers to vote.
In April, Secretary of State Alex Padilla “deputized” about 200 LA Unified students and encouraged them to register 2,000 students. The students rose to the challenge and exceeded the goal.
Rachel Ochsenreither, 18, had planned on voting in the primary election even before she became deputized, but participating in the process made it that much more exciting for her.
“It was a new experience since it was my first. It kind of got me to make sure I do it every time,” the senior said of voting.
She even encouraged her mother and older sister to register to vote.
While most of her peers were excited to register, Ochsenreither said some students were skeptical of signing up. They didn’t think their vote would count or their voice would be heard, she said.
She told them, “Your vote is your voice, of course your voice will be heard.”
“That kind of convinced of them, ‘OK, maybe I should vote, because this is the year I can vote’,” she said.
Some students who registered close to the May 23 deadline had to cast provisional ballots.
Dana Brooks, a government teacher at Poly who led the school’s election activities, said that her students warned their peers that might be the case, but it didn’t prevent some of the new voters from feeling disappointed to receive a provisional ballot. (Provisional ballots are counted once the county registrar determines the voter is eligible to vote.)
This presidential election year, Brooks said her senior government students have been more engaged in the presidential election than before, which she attributes to the personalities of “Bernie and the Donald,” presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.
She said the majority of her students support Sanders. When she brought in a sample ballot to review with her students, all they wanted to know was, “What number do I bubble for Bernie?,” she said.
She said she was surprised at the eagerness of her students who wanted to become deputies and were willing to participate in the training on a Saturday.
A 2015 study by UC Davis Center for Regional Change’s California Civic Engagement Project found that in the November 2014 election, youth voter turnout was the lowest for all age groups: 8.2 percent of California’s eligible youth voted, compared to 18.5 percent in the 2010 general election.
“High school youth who learn why voting is relevant to their lives, and learn how to actually register and vote, are more likely to cast ballots when they turn 18,” the study’s author, Mindy Romero, director of the California Civic Engagement Project, wrote.
LA County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan told KPCC in April that 63 percent of all new registered voters were 18- to 29-year-olds. He called the jump significant and unlike previous election cycles.
It is still unclear if the boost in registrations resulted in youth turning out to vote Tuesday in greater numbers. Voter turnout countywide Tuesday was about 30 percent, higher than the 2012 presidential primary (21.87 percent), but lower than the 2008 presidential primary turnout of 55.26 percent.
Elmer Roldan, who heads the United Way’s educational programs, said the LA Youth Vote program began last year with the LA Unified school board races. They registered 3,000 students in the local election.
“For us, we see this as a long-term platform for young people to be influential in the decisions that impact education,” he said. “What we envision is that we will engage young people throughout the summer and in November and really ride the wave.”
He said United Way plans on hosting student-moderated and student-run forums ahead of the school board elections in March.
Students were encouraged to share their photos on social media with the hashtag #PartyAtThePolls.
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