Million Voters Project Aims to Get Minorities Out to Polls

One man who signed up to vote during a recent drive says he is thrilled to have a voice in his community

A grass-roots community group hit the streets in Southern California this week with a clear mission — registering 1 million voters by 2018 to help better reflect the state's diverse population.

During a recruiting drive this week, members of the "Million Voters Project" spent time at Glendale Community College to sign people up during one of the most watched presidential elections in years.

Guillermo Delgadillo, the son of two undocumented immigrants, signed up to vote during the visit. He didn't know who he would vote for in the November election pitting Republican Donald Trump against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"Immigration is a really big part my decision of who to vote for. I just want to make sure my parents are safe," he said. 

The project, an alliance between six community organizations, is targeting demographics similar to Deljadillo's: immigrants, people of color, working class citizens, and college students. They plan to go into unusual communities, such as county jails and skid row, to get new voters to register. 

"We have such a long history of ignoring people who look a different way or live in a different neighborhood," said Karla Zombro, field director of California Calls, the organization heading the project. "It's time to give them a voice."

Latinos such as Delgadillo make up almost half of Los Angeles County's population, but represented only 30 percent of the registered voter population in 2012, the last general election, according to UC Davis' Center for Regional Change, a nonpartisan research initiative for the state of California.

General elections draw the most attention from new and infrequent voters, such as young people and Latinos, said Raphael Sonenshein, the executive director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.

The Million Votes Project is capitalizing on the excitement of the 2016 election to recruit voters, organizers say.

Zombro said their goal is really getting voters out to local elections.

"The president isn't going to decide what your kid's school's budget is," she said. "The local election is where the change is, you need pay attention to them."

But it's one thing to get people to register to vote, but another to get them to vote.

"People think their vote doesn't count, that there isn't going to be any change. We are trying to change that," Zombro said.

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