Content in partnership with CA Youth Media Network

‘I Am Their Voice’: First-Time Voters Uplift Their Voices with Their Ballots

‘I Am Their Voice’: First-Time Voters Uplift Their Voices with Their Ballots (Photo: Getty Images)
Biviana Camacho stands in front of the Kern County Elections Office after registering to vote. (Photo courtesy of South Kern Sol)

Bakersfield, CABy Edith Mata

This story was originally published by South Kern Sol, a youth-led journalism organization in Kern County in California's Central Valley. In their stories, reporters shine light on health and racial disparities in underserved communities across Kern.

Biviana Camacho, an incoming Bakersfield College freshman, will turn 18 nearly one month before the 2020 presidential election.

Camacho has been looking forward to this day for years, as she pre-registered to vote two years ago. And for her, voting means so much more than uplifting her own voice.

”I have always been passionate about the things that impact my community, as I come from a mixed-status family where my parents are undocumented, and I am their voice,” Camacho said. “Elected officials locally and in Congress are not listening to the youth or what the community needs, and it is time for a change and it happens by voting.”

In recent elections, young people across the nation have become more civically engaged.

In 2016, young voters between the ages 18 to 29 were the only age group to report increased turnout compared to 2012. A total of 46.1 percent of eligible voters in this age group voted, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Junior Trampe, a 26-year-old mechanic, was not one of the young people who voted in the 2016 presidential election or the elections prior.

“When I was 18, I saw it more as a joke than a political vote,” Trampe said.

But it’s never too late to decide to vote for the first time and get engaged in the community, said Trampe. He has decided to vote for the first time in the 2020 November election.

Trampe has been called to vote because of recent events. He said there are disparities in his community that need to be addressed, as mass protests against racism and police brutality continue and five men — four Black and one Latinx — have been found hanging in public spaces across the U.S. in recent weeks.

“Lynchings are public acts of extrajudicial torture that are meant to traumatize and suppress engagement in political and economic life through this violence,” said Trampe. “It is important to recognize that can only change by making sure my voice is heard, by voting and not allowing others to make those important decisions for me.”

Trampe is encouraging young adults to not wait so long to vote like he did, but, instead, to become engaged in their communities and exercise their right to vote.

“Throughout history, we have seen that people of color have died demanding and fighting for our rights to vote,” he said. “We have to continue to exercise our right to vote and not take those deaths for granted.”

In the 2016 election, there were nearly 4.6 million more voters than in the 2012 election, according to the Census Bureau.

Camacho said she hopes more young voters continue to partake in elections by voting.

She said, “Your vote is a vote for a thousand people that cannot vote.”

This year’s Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3. Those in California who would like to register to vote can still do so by filling out an online application here. In California, the deadline to register to vote for any election is 15 days before Election Day.

If you would like to register using a paper voter registration application, you can pick one up at your county elections office, library, Department of Motor Vehicles offices or U.S. post office. To request a paper voter registration application be mailed to you, call (800) 345-VOTE(8683).

Registration forms being mailed must be postmarked or submitted electronically no later than Oct. 19, 2020.

To pre-register to vote, youth can do so here. Online pre-registration is available for eligible 16 and 17 year olds.

If you have any questions, contact the California Secretary of State’s Elections Division at (800) 345-VOTE (8683).

Follow more stories from South Kern Sol and our other partners in the California Youth Media Network on Twitter.

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