Student Melissa Garcia dropped her voter registration card into a collection boxand just like that she gained a new voice. She was on the path to becoming a new voter. Melissa was among 500 seniors at San Ysidro High and nearly 7,000 seniors across the Sweetwater District who are being encouraged to register to vote.
“This is very important and can make a difference,” said Melissa, a school student government leader. “We can send a message by registering to vote, getting more informed and actually voting on election day.”
The campaign is a positive outlet for students who wish to be heard on current events. The education effort follows weeks of marches, walkouts and a national boycott of schools and businesses on May 1 to protest proposed legislation on immigration issues. Although there are many organizations that target the youth vote, very little is done on most campuses to inform and register students.
The Sweetwater District, though, has launched a series of activities to encourage positive civic engagement.
“The idea here is to remind students that one vote counts and registering to vote is part of our civic responsibility,” said Sweetwater Board President Greg Sandoval. “This is especially important when you consider that we’ve experienced a national decline in youth voter participation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 36% of 18 to 24-year-olds participated in the 2000 presidential election. That’s compared to 50% of 18 to 24-year-olds who voted in 1972, the year the voting age was lowered to 18. We want to do our part in the schools to get more students involved.”
Voter education materials, including registration forms, are being made available to every high school senior right on campus. In addition, voter registration forms are also being distributed to middle schools and adult schools for dissemination to parents and/or community members.
Although the exact number of district seniors who will turn 18 by June 6 isn’t known, the majority of students will turn 18 before the November election and can register now. The County Registrar of Voters will process the registration forms for such seniors, holding them in a special file until their birthdays.
“I told some of them (classmates) that how could they vote for the prom king and queen and not vote in the real elections?” said student Brenda Garcia, who also helped in the voter registration drive.