By Lacey Williams, Youth Programs Manager
United 4 the DREAM members Pali Sikisi and Estefania Ventura Arrazola had a mission this fall: register 1,500 youth to vote in 6 weeks.
Pali, an immigrant from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, just gained his citizenship and will be able to vote this year. Estefania, a DREAMer from Mexico, is a potential beneficiary of Deferred Action. Both have been on lobbying trips to DC and Raleigh. Both see the importance of political and civic engagement.
“I hope that as we registered these young folks to vote, we also activated their drive to make sure that their voice is heard,” said Pali about the registration drive. “We might not change the world but maybe we can empower someone who does”
In 2010, a new law was passed allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote in North Carolina. The result has been an influx of 60,000 youth voters who will be able to vote in the upcoming election. This law is special because it guarantees a teen who turns 18 after the registration deadline but before election day the right to vote if he or she pre-registers. In most states, that teen would have to wait until the next election year to vote.
Pali and Estefania spent their weekday mornings going to 17 schools, sometimes twice, to ask students one simple question, “Are you registered to vote?”
With the help of students, teachers and administrators at various Charlotte-Mecklenburg-area schools, Pali and Estefania — the Dynamic Duo — got young people excited about registering to vote.
“I wanted to be involved in voter registration this year because it’s important for everyone who is eligible to vote to vote. Especially people who come from mixed status families,” says Estefania. “I can’t vote. Voter registration is my contribution. My voice can be heard through their vote. That’s how the community can come together and help each other.”
Here are some of the milestones we reached during the voter registration drive:
+ We broke 1,000 voter registrations at Berry Academy of Technology.
+ We met our goal at Butler High.
+ We broke the 2,000 registrations mark at Mallard Creek High.
+ We registered the most voters in one day and broke 2,500 registrations at Hopewell High School.
+ “Unaffiliated” — the party most students preferred when registering to vote