Voter registration drive focuses on students

Actor Edward James Olmos encourages students to vote at Central High School in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo by Mindy Riesenberg/Cronkite News)

Students register to vote at Central High School in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sept. 27, 2016. (Photo by Mindy Riesenberg/Cronkite News)

Actor and activist Edward James Olmos encouraged about 100 high school students to register to vote at Central High School Tuesday morning as part of National Voter Registration Day.

“The single most important aspect of being a part of this community and this country is using your voice to vote,” said Olmos, who is working with Mi Familia Vota to get members of the Latino community to vote.

Phoenix Union High School District is the largest high school district in the country to partner with National Voter Registration Day, and has 2,200 students who will be eligible to vote by Nov. 8. The non-partisan organization One Arizona worked with the district to register the students at voter registration events at 15 high school campuses throughout the day.

And the efforts extend beyond the schools and students.

“Every student in the district got a voter ballot to take home, even if they aren’t 18 yet, and were asked to find a family member or friend to talk to about voter registration,” said Stephanie Parra of Phoenix Union High School District.

The importance of voting is on the mind of Nicholas Romero, a 15-year-old Central High School sophomore.

“You see past presidents and how they affected America, and I think it’s important to be able to choose our president,” he said.

“If we get them young, they will continue to vote,” said Lupita Juarez of One Arizona. “They’re a representation of the Arizona we want.”

The school district has a high Latino population, and many of the students are children of people who have not voted or cannot vote in the United States.

“The more we vote, the more we have a chance of getting what we want. People shouldn’t sit on the sideline,” said 18-year-old senior Yarlin Moreno, a member of the school’s Chicano civic engagement club.

According to Google Trends, the term “registrarse para votar” (“register to vote” in Spanish) hit its peak popularity following the first presidential debate Monday night, with more than 100,000 searches. Arizona ranks 15 out of 50 states for the same search term, and 20th for the English-language version.

Searches for voter registration since Democratic and Republican conventions (Source: Google Trends)

“We went to a lot of debate events last night,” said Juarez. “So many young people and new citizens were there, and people were paying attention.”

“Voting is our civic responsibility and I want to ensure we register as many Arizonans as possible before the deadline this cycle,” Secretary of State Michele Reagan said in a news release today. The last day to register by mail is Oct. 8; the last day to register in person or on the web is Oct. 10.

For more information on how to register to vote click here.