As California prepares to hold primaries to select candidates for the November elections, United Parents and Students has been busy motivating communities to go to the polls and let their voices be heard.
Since early April, the community-based organization has been holding voting events in communities served by Green Dot Public Schools to educate parents and families of students on the issues that affect the community. And while they are at it, making elections a family, fun filled event.
“For us, it’s simple, easy. Come for an hour, learn about what’s on the ballot, why it’s important, learn about the candidates and the ballot’s propositions,” said Veronica Toledo, associate director at UPAS. “We make it easy and digestible for people, so people are really motivated and excited about the training component and the people love the actual voting event.”
During those workshops, Toledo and her staff let voters know what positions are up for election, such as Supervisors, City Council and School Boards, among others. Most importantly, they are oriented on what impact those officials have on the community.
“One (of the things is to) learn about the elections, what are the offices that are on the ballot, what impact do they have,” explained Toledo. “Like, what is a supervisor, what does a city councilmember do, how do school boards impact my kids or my kid’s education and help people understand who the candidates are, and then really figure out how they want to vote.”
As families face issues such as clean, safe streets, gang intervention and crime prevention, the event’s focus is on letting people know how to research the different candidates’ platforms online and how their platforms bring solutions to the community. While motivating participants to vote, UPAS also encourages them to involve family, friends, and neighbors.
“Elections and voting are very individualized right now, and people just don’t necessarily recognize the impact of their vote,” adds Toledo. “So we are doing a lot of work to really help people see the impact of voting in huge numbers that it can offset the power of money. We may not be able to donate thousands or millions of dollars to political campaigns, but if we can get ten friends and family to vote, and we all do that, we can get public officials to pay attention to our communities and invest more resources in our communities.”
While the Election Workshops are educational, UPAS is non-partisan, and does not favor any particular candidate. Rather, they ask the parents and families of the students which candidate they should vote for.
“We don’t say you should vote for this person, but I think certainly what the impact of the school board is, what is the impact of the board of supervisors,” said Toledo. “Which are the candidates and what their priorities are from their website and from the information they have published so that people have a chance to see it in an easy format.”
The most visible race on this year’s ballot is surely the mayoral race for the city of Los Angeles. The last time the city elected a new mayor was 2013, when current Mayor Eric Garcetti won.
There will be one more event before June 7th’s election. Three days beforehand, UPAS will host a two-hour event at KIPP Promesa, at South Soto St. in Los Angeles, providing food and beverages, carnival games and raffles to entice voters and other family members to vote.
“It is a lot more fun to vote as a group. If I can bring my mom, my dad, my sister to come vote with me and then we are going to get them free food, we are going to have games and raffles and other kinds of stuff,” adds Toledo. “We also encourage people who can’t vote to celebrate and come, bring a friend or family member that can vote even if you can’t, you know, be there to encourage other people, to celebrate other people and be a part of the process, even if you yourself don’t vote.”