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City Heights Get Out The Vote Effort About More Than Just Election Day

Dennis Smith, 18 (left), and Rosa Olascoaga Vidal, 22, descend the stairs of an apartment complex where they contacted a voter, Nov. 5, 2018.
Tarryn Mento
Dennis Smith, 18 (left), and Rosa Olascoaga Vidal, 22, descend the stairs of an apartment complex where they contacted a voter, Nov. 5, 2018.

Recent college graduate Rosa Olascoaga Vidal walked the neighborhood where she grew up Monday and knocked on door after door to ensure residents turned out to vote this election. She canvassed San Diego's City Heights community armed with bilingual polling location door hangers, ballot measure information and a passionate plea about what’s at stake this Election Day.

"I was like these decisions are being made...with or without us, so make sure that we are at least there at the table so we can make—have these decisions and have that voice," Olascoaga Vidal said.

Her efforts are part of a multi-year strategy from the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network to get 5,000 City Heights residents to cast a ballot by the 2020 general election, but also to establish a community of reliable voters to give the neighborhood more power on issues that come up outside the election cycle, particularly in the eyes of elected officials.

Precincts in lower-income City Heights had some of the city’s lowest turnout rates during the last midterm election, but Mid-City CAN points to data that show the community is making gains. The number of City Heights residents that voted in the 2014 general election is near the amount who cast a ballot in this year's primary, when turnout is typically lower across the board. More than third of those June voters had been pushed to vote by Mid-City CAN, said Director of Civic Engagement Griselda Ramirez.

Video: City Heights Get Out The Vote Effort About More Than Just Election Day

The organization aims to build on that momentum and turn out 2,500 City Heights residents by Tuesday. Volunteers had hoped to reach that many during the primary, but the group fell a bit short with 2,180.

First-time voter and Mid-City CAN canvasser, Dennis Smith, said he joined the nonprofit's get-out-the-vote campaign because he thinks boosting turnout in one neighborhood can bring citywide benefits.

"I just feel as if this is a good way of reaching out to people and voters to go and vote, to make this a better place," the 18-year-old Hillcrest resident said.

For 22-year-old Olascoaga Vidal, volunteering is an opportunity to support the community she loves and inspire fellow young adults who may feel powerless because they were overlooked when under the legal voting age.

"A lot of decisions were just made for us, and people didn't believe in us because we were 'just kids' at the time I guess, that's what they would always consider us," she said, using air quotes. "But as a young person, we have...a powerful voice and people need to realize that."

Mid-City CAN Director of Civic Engagement Griselda Ramirez (left) addresses a circle of canvassers before the volunteers head out to reach voters, Nov. 5, 2018.
Tarryn Mento
Mid-City CAN Director of Civic Engagement Griselda Ramirez (left) addresses a circle of canvassers before the volunteers head out to reach voters, Nov. 5, 2018.

City Heights Get Out The Vote Effort About More Than Just Election Day
The campaign from Mid-City Community Advocacy Network is part of a multi-year plan to establish long-term community advocacy habits.

Corrected:
Mid-City CAN is funded by The California Endowment, which also supports City Heights reporting at KPBS.