Turning 18 and Registering to Vote

Paola Fernandezby Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Manager

Every year 878,000 Latino citizen youth turn 18, creating a tremendous opportunity to
increase Latino youth civic participation in our democracy. This number represents an opportunity to elevate the electoral power of the Latino community and push for changes important to us.

California is one of the states with the largest number of Latino citizen youth in the nation and one of the states in which Latinos will play a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential election. One of those youth who will turn 18 this year is Paola Fernandez Morales from Chula Vista, California. Currently a senior at MACC Community Charter School, Paola will graduate in December and hopes to start college the following year.

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As a fourth generation Californian, Paola looks forward to joining other members of her family at the polls next year. Her teachers at MACC Community Charter School have been instrumental in encouraging youth like Paola to vote. In her government class, her teacher speaks about democracy and the importance of the vote. Paola understands the importance of making her voice heard as she hears presidential candidates’ proposals that would impact her community negatively.

“I got inspired to vote because I don’t like what I hear on TV. Deporting families and building walls are not good things for our nation” says Paola about the hateful political platform of some presidential candidates. “I disagree because families want to have a better life. Many people were raised here and they are Americans; just because they don’t have a document doesn’t mean they are not American. I have friends who are in this situation, who want to go to college like me, but instead they live in fear and have a very small chance of getting an education.”

“Turning 18 is a big step,” says Paola, “because I know what’s happening around me; I see it in my community. I am going to vote because I need to be the voice of the people who cannot vote yet. When I enter the polls on November 8, 2016, quality education and immigration reform will be on my mind.”

Paola hopes to see candidates proposing ideas to improve the quality of education for students and ensure safe places for students to learn. “There are many dangers around schools like drugs or child abuse; we need safe schools.”

Latino children represent nearly one-fourth of children in the Unites States and an overwhelming majority are citizens just like Paola. “If you are turning 18 before the election, register to vote,” she says. “Have you heard the hateful lies being told about our community? You can change that by registering to vote. Your vote is important because you have to stand up for what’s right, even if you feel like you couldn’t. Make your 18th birthday count and register to vote—that’s what I’ll do tomorrow on my 18th birthday.”

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