No sooner did East Area Progressive Democrats open its campaign office in LA's Glassell Park than people began dropping in to talk about issues and get registered. Some expressed concern about affordable housing, illegal dumping and increased school funding. Others were incensed over the GOP frontrunner’s harsh immigration stance, prompting some to ask if they could take a whack at the most popular decoration in the office, the Donald Trump piñata.
The ambitious 10-week EAPD voter engagement program is well into accomplishing its goal to register 1,500 new Eastside Democrats and turn out 15,000 voters in the June 7 primary. Its aim is to make an impact in this election and build the club as a long-term vehicle to advance progressive leadership, policy, and action in Eastside and adjoining communities.
Boyle Heights, Echo Park, El Sereno, Highland Park and downtown—areas long underserved by grass roots outreach, and where voter turnout has dropped to the worst in the state, are prime EAPD targets.
A recent coffee at a home in Boyle Heights brought neighbors together, many for the first time, to discuss the importance of voting and to discover that many of their concerns—fallout from the airborne contamination from Exide’s now-closed battery plant, smarter waste policy and affordable housing-- were priorities of EAPD’s ongoing advocacy.
In the 2014 primary, according to the L.A. County Registrar Clerk Recorder, only 17 percent of Angelenos voted, and just 31 percent turned out in that year’s general election.
“The territory targeted by EAPD is ground zero for civic disengagement in California and Los Angeles,” explains Hans Johnson, president of EAPD. “The program showcases the value of Democrats from diverse backgrounds coming together to advocate for their communities. When presented with the concrete chance to connect with neighbors in their community about issues of concern, and translate those values into informed votes, many are hungry to seize the opportunity.”
Local neighborhood coffees hosted in the homes of EAPD members are proving that point. A recent coffee at a home in Boyle Heights brought neighbors together, many for the first time, to discuss the importance of voting and to discover that many of their concerns—fallout from the airborne contamination from Exide’s now-closed battery plant, smarter waste policy and affordable housing—were priorities of EAPD’s ongoing advocacy.
The club’s team of door-to-door canvassers is finding that voter registration in Eastside communities mirrors trends (compiled by Political Data Inc.) in the rest of the state. Young voters under the age of 30, a majority of them Latino, form the largest demographic among new registrants through EAPD's efforts. The club does not turn away anyone seeking to register, but still, more than 95 percent are registering, or re-registering, as Democrats.
“It really is a year that’s unlike any that we’ve seen in recent times," Dean Logan, L.A. County’s Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk told the LA Times. "This is the first presidential cycle that we have seen this significant of an increase in registration activity this early in the registration season."
Opposition to Donald Trump’s extreme stance on Mexican immigrants, promising to deport 11 million if he is elected president, “is definitely driving much of the voter registration surge here on the Eastside,” says Tom Dallas, chief consultant of EAPD’s voter engagement program. Missing from the campaign office these days is the original Trump piñata. EAPD member and supporter of stronger funding for local public schools Fernando Delgado won that in a drawing at the grand-opening party. But new visitors wishing to take a whack need not worry. Another Trump piñata has taken its place.
EAPD Voter Engagement/Registration Program
3530 Fletcher Drive, LA 90065
Mary A. Fischer