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Push to get out younger voters

Bronx Times

As Primary Day looms in a borough with scant voter turnout, a different kind of campaign aims to draw more folks to the polls...along with their kids.

It’s dubbed Campaign for Children, an effort coined by Soundview Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, who emphasized he’s not a candidate for office this year.

“We have a serious problem,” said Crespo, representing the 85th Assembly District. “That is, for whatever reason we have lost that civic engagement.”

The loss is certainly backed by figures.

An NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Affairs review found only 13% of young men under 24 voted, while 19% of women under 24 cast their ballot. In some precincts, only 10% of the overall population vote.

Some reasons stem from a confusing ballot slip to a faster residential turnover rate.

Flanked by supporters from the Board of Elections and local AARP and NAACP chapters, Crespo outlined his quest to attract more young folks to the ballots by utilizing simple word of mouth.

The trick is to encourage ballot-casting parents to treat the voting experience as a “family outing,” where young sons and daughters 18 and up learn not to throw their vote away.

Crespo demanded parents go even further, trekking underage kids to voting booths as a way to ensure their civic mindedness is already ingrained the moment they reach voting age.

“The message that we’re sending is simple: allow the next generation an opportunity to have that experience,” he said, standing in front of JHS Albert Einstein school.

The lack of a proactive voting bloc often results in communities going silent, according to Crespo. He dismissed claims lawmakers turn their back on minority neighborhoods, instead pointing the finger at the uninvolved voter.

“Lawmakers will make the most politically expedient decision,” said Crespo. “In order to be part of that convesation we need to be a politically expedient voter and community.”

It’s a sentiment Board of Elections Deputy Executive Director Dawn Sandow believes, wishing parents would commit to the electoral process as much as they would for the latest commercial craze.

“What are you teaching your children?” asked Sandow. “That it’s okay to stand in line for iPhone or new Air Jordans but not to stand in line to exercise your right to vote?” The BOE will dole out sample ballots throughout Bronx schools as a way to familiarize students of the process.

“It is the single most important thing that will make them future voters,” said Beverly Roberts, head of the NAACP chapter in Parkchester.

September 10th is Primary Day in the Bronx with Election Day falling on Nov. 5th.

David Cruz can be reach via e-mail at DCruz@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3383

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