Puente signs up first time voters

In spite of the hyper-blogged presidential debates and media-driven election controversies, many people on the South Coast do not feel connected to local, state or national elections.

This year, Puente was taking no chances. A month before the election, Puente staff was out in full force handing out voter registration forms. They targeted first-time voters: new citizens, and local youth who had just turned 18.

“One by one, we’re getting them all,” laughs Rita Mancera, Program Director for Puente.

Especially the young people.

“When someone votes at a young age, statistics show they’re going to keep voting later in life,” continues Mancera. “They may not understand much about politics, but I think it’s important that they know they have a voice. And I think this will help them feel more informed.”

Puente got Javier Morales to register to vote. He’ll be 19 in November, and this will be his first presidential election.

“I’ve always been kind of interested in politics. Especially this year, all the California propositions – how they want to take away the death penalty. And how they want to minimize penalties for ‘three-strikes,’” Morales says.

The life-long Pescadero resident enjoys watching the presidential debates and summarizing them for his friends. And he devoted a serious amount of attention to scrutinizing the two candidates for president.

“Especially now they we’re in a tough economy, I’ve been seeing how their budgets work out,” he says.

In spite of President Barack Obama’s much-vaunted appeal among youth voters in the 2008 election, numbers show that surprisingly few young people actually bothered to vote four years ago. It’s unclear how the diminished level of excitement for this year’s election will end up affecting young people’s voting choices this time around.

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