Los Angeles

Growing LA Latino Youth Voter Turnout Could Have Big Impact on Election

Youth leaders across Los Angeles Tuesday launched a massive voter-registration drive expected to engage LA Unified students for the upcoming election.

The leaders of "Children Over Politics" joined California Secretary of State Alex Padilla and members of the Service Employees International Union at the Robert F. Kennedy Community School in Koreatown to map out a plan to register eligible students in time for the elections.

"Our generation isn't just worrying about the future," Belle Lopez, Children Over Politics leader, said. "We are changing it with our votes."

The 2016 election has focused much on immigration, and statistics are pointing to a stronger Latino voice this year.

It's a fact not underestimated by students who say in some ways they will vote by proxy for their parents.

"I'm actually giving my vote to my mom," Yaahjaira Blas, student at Robert F. Kennedy, said. "Because she's the one that's not legal, so I can actually vote for her, but with my voice."

According to the state's election registration office, 51 percent of the California population of people under 18 are Latino, and many of those are citizen children of undocumented parents. 

"California's a very diverse state and much like my own experience growing up, my parents weren't eligible to vote because they weren't citizens yet," Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. "A lot of the kids today are growing up in households where maybe their parents aren't citizens."

Padilla's parents were legal permanent residents. They are now U.S. citizens.

Eighty-five percent of the student body at Robert F. Kennedy Community School is Latino and many say they feel the burden facing some families.

"[It is so] people don't get separated from their families," said Kimberly Nunez, who registered to vote for the first time Tuesday.

Student Carlos Bautista says he understands the power of his voice in November.

"You get to be the voice for people who don't have the opportunity to vote," he said.

Yesenia Aguilar, a Junior, says she votes with her own family in mind.

"I feel like I can stand up for them because they can't stand up for themselves," she said. "So I would stand up for them with my vote."

Padilla says he hopes that by registering California's youth in time for their first voting experience in November, they will become consistent voters in the future.

Blas said she knows her vote can help shape her future.

"It's not only the older people that are getting the opportunity because it's actually our future, not someone else's," she said.

Padilla's office says more than 560,000 Californians have used the secretary of state’s online voter registration site in the first three months of 2016.

They say the surge of registrations was fueled by Californians ages 17-25, who accounted for more than 36 percent of online registrations during that time.

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