By Pablo Jaime Sainz
The State Assembly 79th District, which includes cities and communities such as Barrio Logan, Imperial Beach, National City, San Ysidro, and western Chula Vista, historically has had a low turn out in elections.
About 76 percent of the population there is people of color: Mexicanos, Latinos, African-Americans, and Filipinos. And about 57 percent is Mexicano and Latino.
It also has the least number of registered voters of the County’s eight Assembly Districts.
A newly formed coalition of local activists launched a voter registration campaign this week that will try to register at least 3,000 voters from the 79th District with a special focus on ethnic groups that have had low participation in past elections.
The ¡Mi Voto Cuenta! (My Vote Counts) campaign will try to register 3,000 eligible voters before Oct. 23, which is the last day to register to vote for the November 7 elections.
The campaign will also try to increase turnout among reluctant voters.
“Our goal is to inspire people to participate in our democracy,” said Cheryl Alethia Phelps, principal architect of ¡Mi Voto Cuenta! “
Organized by the newly formed Equality Alliance of San Diego County, Justice Overcoming Boundaries, ¡Mi Voto Cuenta! is made possible thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Sacramento-based Voter Registration and Education Project.
The Equality Alliance’s purpose is to increase power in communities of color by networking racial justice activists to share resources and technical expertise, said Andrea Guerrero, the Alliance’s founder.
It will shed light on the widening gulf between voters and nonvoters in race, age and affluence, and will encourage people of color to register and to vote early in order to reverse the current trend toward disenfranchisement, she said.
So far, the coalition has registered “a couple of hundred” voters, Guerrero said.
To reach its goal, coalition volunteers and employees will have door to door registration as well as events at places where people congregate, such as swap-meets, churches, outside certain stores, she said.
Guerrero added that this is a trilingual campaign, with material in English, Spanish, and Tagalog.
A recent Public Policy Institute of California survey found that although the state’s ethnic composition has become increasingly diverse, frequent or likely voters are predominately white, age 45 and older, and more affluent; and nonvoters are mostly nonwhite, younger and less affluent, said a statement from the Equality Alliance.
Also, in San Diego County, people of color comprise 58 percent of the population, but only 38 percent of the electorate.
“A small numerical minority of people are deciding the direction of the law for the majority of people who are not participating in the electoral process,” Guerrero said. “In places like National City, only 7 percent of residents voted in the last elections.”
Although many politicians ignore many segments of the population, Guerrero said it depends on the communities to start seeing changes in their own communities.
“Many Latinos think that their vote doesn’t count because they feel that people in power don’t pay attention to them. But Latinos need to understand that if you don’t use your vote, you’re not using your voice. We won’t be able to change the situation. You have no right to complain if you don’t vote. It’s in you hands to change your own and your children’s future,” Guerrero said.
There will be a voter education forum at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow (10/14/06), Saturday, at Bethel Baptist Church on Euclid Avenue in San Diego.
Guerrero said that the campaign is hiring registration workers. They pay $10 per hour. Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a valid California driver’s license, and ideally be a registered voter. Bilingual applicants are preferred, but monolinguals are also welcomed. For more information, call (619) 255-6986. For more details, visit www.equalitysandiego.org.