SAN JOSE (KPIX) – For the first time, a nearly city-wide student voter registration drive took place in San Jose. Thirteen high schools across the city participated in the pilot project aimed at sparking more civic engagement among young people.
This year, 2018, will be the first time in more than 40 years that the number of eligible younger voters will outnumber the baby-boomers. But younger voters are not turning out at the polls. This effort is meant to change that.
When the bell rang for lunch at Evergreen Valley High School many students picked up a pen. They came to register to vote even though most of them, like Gerardo Vazquez will have to wait a year or two to legally cast a ballot.
“Today I preregistered to vote,” said Vazquez. “I did it because I realize that my voice can actually make an impact in the future that I want for my life.”
It happened at schools all across San Jose. The aim is to engage and excite young voters…who often need a push to participate at the polls.
In the mid-term elections of 2014, less than 20 percent of voters 18 to 29 actually voted.
“Maybe people feel like their voice can’t make a difference, so they don’t register to vote,” said student Annika Chun. “But that’s wrong obviously. Our voices to matter.”
The registration effort at Evergreen Valley was strong and enthusiastic.
“A lot of students don’t know that they have the ability to register this early on,” said student Nolan Ryan Gonzales.
Some, like Shivangi Singh said they were motivated to get more involved by recent school shootings.
“With the gun control walkouts, there were changes made, so that was really awesome. So that’s a really strong example of how making a change with your voice can make a difference,” said Singh.
Organizers say about half of the 200 or so students who registered identified as Democrat, the other half declined to identify with a political party, another trend among young voters.
“In some respects, what they are telling us is that parties are not speaking to them and so they are going to speak for themselves and I’m excited about that,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
The voter drive was actually a competition between the East Side Union High School District and San Jose Unified. And it’s just the beginning of what will be an even stronger push to register new voters for the 2020 election.