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California's secretary of state is on a campaign to register college voters

Potential young voters at Southwestern College got a reminder Friday from California’s secretary of state about their power in this November’s election.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber spoke at the Chula Vista campus about her effort to register 1 million college-aged students in time to vote in the election — an election that includes seven state propositions and many statewide races, including her own.

“The only way you’re going to be heard effectively is to vote,” Weber said to an audience at the SWC Performing Arts Center. “When you don’t vote, you give up your power.”

Weber is the first African American to hold the office. She is the daughter of sharecroppers who fled the South to California in order to safely register to vote without intimidation.

As secretary of state, Weber is responsible for protecting the integrity of 22 million votes in California.

“Our democracy becomes weakened by negative comments. It is weakened by (people who say) that it’s not real or that it doesn’t work. But it has survived, and it is the best system we have,” she told KPBS News.

The Southwestern College Associated Student Organization sponsored Weber’s visit, along with visits by two other local politicians earlier this week. On Wednesday, students were willing to stand in the blistering heat for the chance to meet with San Diego Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-53. On Thursday, Rep. Juan Vargas, D-51, visited a classroom on campus and met with students one-on-one.

During the week, more than 50 students became newly registered voters.

“The most important tool we have is voting," said Leonardo Vanegas, SWC's student body president. "Yes, using your First Amendment to go out and protest is an influential part of it, but activism [and] voting have to complement each other.”

Weber has led the way in registering 900,000 college-aged voters this year alone.

“This is your moment," she told students Friday. "Where is your courage to stand up and fight? Where is your courage to register people to vote? Where is your courage to defend our democracy and the right of all of us to have the right to vote.”

What questions do you have about the Statewide General Election coming up on Nov. 8? Submit your questions here, and we'll try to answer them in our reporting.