Oakland, CA — Born into a family of Latino immigrants, Eliana Jimenez Honeycutt knows firsthand the struggles that minorities face when it comes to politics, which is why she became politically active.
Honeycutt has tackled voter registration, educating people on props and worked on Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Currently, she works as the civic engagement coordinator for the Dolores Huerta Foundation. YR Media’s Emiliano Villa sat down with Honeycutt to discuss the importance of voting, the role social media plays in the election, and how to get young people to the polls.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Emiliano Villa: It’s safe to say that you are very politically active. Were you always like that?
Eliana Jimenez Honeycutt: I was not always like that. I was raised a Jehovah's Witness and grew up with a very conservative upbringing. My parents didn't even believe in voting, but I saw the injustices going on around me and I just couldn't be quiet anymore. I couldn't stay neutral while people were hurting and suffering.
EV: What are the issues that are most important to you?
EJH: I think immigrant rights are super important. Growing up as a child of immigrants myself, I saw discrimination with my parents and how people look down on them because they have a really thick accent when they speak English. [Immigration and discrimination] are really important issues. I think we need to draw attention to, on top of mobilizing, our own base and make sure that the folks who are already inclined to get involved get that extra push.
EV: As someone who’s worked with so many people and on many campaigns, what do you think we could be doing to increase the youth vote?
EJH: Just keep on registering — and pre-registering — kids to vote. A lot of folks don't realize that you can pre-register to vote. That way when you turn 18, the county elections office holds onto that information and automatically registers you. Getting an early start is the best way to mobilize the youth of today.
EV: What are your thoughts on social media initiatives to increase voter turnout?
EJH: It's an easy and excellent way to get the youth motivated to actually go out and vote. We’re already so inclined to broadcast ourselves [on social media], so we need to do it in a way that's going to help us advocate for our own communities and develop [youth] leaders and expand on their skills. It also gives folks a creative outlet. One thing I've noticed during presentations with youth is that they respond when you make political memes. That's an effective way to get folks to say, 'that’s really funny and true, so I should get on registering to vote.'
EV: What are some of the pros and cons of organizing?
EJH: I try not to keep count of the pros and cons because it's so easy to get fixated on the injustices, and this is a labor of love for me. One thing Dolores Huerta says is that we’re never going to have all the resources we need, so we need to just put the power of the people behind organizing and voting. If we don't do the work, no one is going to do it for us. But you can't live, eat, and breathe the resistance, so you have to take care of yourself too.
EV: What are some of the most memorable moments in your work?
EJH: There’s been so many moments of glory. I've been able to go to different events with Dolores Huerta, but one of the most rewarding moments was when I started campaigning. I got my start as a paid canvasser for a Democratic voter registration drive in Fresno. We came across an older Hispanic man — and he reminded me of my dad — and I registered him to vote. He had just became a citizen, and he was just so excited. I came by again later, and was able to help him fill out his ballot. There was just a joy in his eyes [because he was] able to participate for all the family members that felt they didn't have a voice. Helping him become a part of our democracy was really one of the most rewarding moments.
EV: Is there anything that you would want to tell a young voter who's maybe on the fence about voting, or don't know their resources?
EJH: I would say that life is becoming increasingly easy in some ways and increasingly difficult in other ways. I know it's super tempting to not want to participate because it seems like a concept that's just so far away from you, that's so unrelatable. Whether or not you realize, everything in our lives has to do with politics. Voting is the ultimate equalizer. It's one person, one vote. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, whether or you drive a Honda or a Tesla. When you vote, it counts for one.