Shut Down or Shut in, It (Still) Takes Only Five Minutes to Register to Votecsudhbulletin June 5, 2020 0 COMMENTS
Protester’s sign in the 2018 March for Our Lives rally in Kansas City. Photo: Annie Bolin, Unsplash
By Iracema Navarro, Politics Editor
The coronavirus has cast a shadow over voting in the 2020 elections, including fears of lower voter turn-out due to possible concerns over catching the virus at the polls, and a roiling controversy over states issuing vote-by-mail forms, which California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered on May 8 for the state’s 20.6 million voters, but at least one exceptionally prominent voice is opposed to.
The ensuing weeks leading to the Nov. 3 general election will tell all of us what will happen around the actual vote, but the first step for any eligible voter to cast their vote is to be registered. But the health crisis and social distancing protocols have shelved traditional in-person registering efforts for now, forcing organizations dedicated to getting out the vote to turn to online voter registration to make up the difference.
In-person voting will still continue but with Gov. Newsom’s restrictions to the limit of people, the size of facilities, and only if counties offer three days of early voting. Locations to vote will be provided to ensure assistance to voters with disabilities and language barriers.
But online registration may have a silver lining for one important voting demographic, for those whom going online is second nature: young voters. That is, if they actually turn out to vote.
Of Los Angeles County’s 6.1 million eligible voters, 5.4 million of which are registered, the 18 to 29-year-old demographic is the highest percentage: 23 percent. That is a trend reflected nationwide, according to Phillip Verbera of Community and Voter Outreach at Los Angeles County, Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk. But higher numbers don’t translate into a greater voice.
“The 18-35 demographics, our youngest demographic, they currently outnumber [in voter registration] every other demographic in LA County and we’re seeing this not only in LA County but we’re seeing this trend across the nation,” Verbera said. “The issues are, well the only issue is the voter turnout, they turn out on the lowest numbers to vote.”
According to the United States Elections Project, in the eight presidential elections since 1988, the highest percentage of voters ages 18 to 29 was 48%, in 2008. The smallest turnout was in 1996, 33 percent. In 2016, 43.4% of young voters participated.
In contrast, in 2016, voters ages 30 to 44 turned out at 57%, ages 45 to 59 were 66% and ages 60 and over were 71 percent.
According to The 100 Million Project, a research survey study from the Knight Foundation, there are several major reasons why people may choose not to vote. Non-voters do not engage because of lack of faith in the election system, lower engagement with information, lack of interest in politics, lower civic engagement and not knowing the candidates and the issues they support.
As to what issues younger voters, who are engaged and care about, according to a survey from GenFoward, they believe the most important problems facing the country are climate change, health care, and immigration.
Along with the push to get people to register online, one note of optimism concerning getting more younger voters in this year’s general election is that in the last midterm elections, the largest percentage point increase of any group age was those among 18 to 29-year-olds with the voter turnout going from 20 percent in 2014 to 36 percent in 2018.
The resolve of organizations concerned with getting out the vote can be found in AltaMed Health Services, which provides care to more than 300,000 Southern California residents. The organization, established in East Los Angeles in 1969, received a $2.3 million grant from the California Endowment for its nonpartisan civic engagement program “My Vote, My Health.” As one of the largest independent community health centers with services continuing during the pandemic, community services also include voter registration drives and voter guides.
It takes an average of five minutes for a U.S. Citizen over age 18 to register. To pre-register to vote, check registration status, or register to vote, eligible voters can visit the California Secretary of State website. The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 19.