With a landmark primary election behind them, California voters are turning their attention to November and the crucial policy decisions that ride on their ballot-box choices.
More than a quarter of Californians who are eligible to vote are not registered, however.
AARP California is teaming with the League of Women Voters and other groups for a voter education and registration drive in English and Spanish.
AARP will staff a voter registration booth at the Los Angeles County Fair Sept. 5 to 7.
Registrations must be handed in or postmarked on or before Oct. 22.
Californians who are U.S. citizens and who have turned 18 by the Nov. 6 Election Day are eligible to vote. Among the exceptions are imprisoned, paroled and some probationary felons.
The outreach is targeting Los Angeles County, where nearly 3 million voting-age citizens are not registered to vote. Latinos account for nearly half the county's population.
"We're focusing special attention on 50-plus Latinos in Los Angeles County, who are underrepresented when it comes to voter registration," said David Pacheco, AARP California president.
The initiative underscores California's new political landscape.
Thanks to voter-passed initiatives championed by AARP California on earlier state ballots, the June primary this year marked the first time that:
Candidates ran across party lines — meaning the top two vote-getters in U.S. congressional and California legislative races, regardless of party affiliation, were elevated to compete against each other in the November election.
The candidates ran in legislative districts drawn by an independent citizens' commission instead of the legislature.
The commission took the redistricting job out of the hands of political powers who have a vested interest in creating "safe" seats for the reelection of incumbents.
New power for voters
It all adds up to a newly empowered electorate with a chance to change the profile of its representation in Sacramento and Washington.
AARP California and other reformers pushed the redistricting commission and the "top-two" primary system in hopes of quelling partisan gridlock that they said stemmed partly from incumbents' domination in their party primaries under the old system.
"It's been understandable in the past that folks felt their vote didn't matter much if they lived in a district where the same person got elected every time," Pacheco said.
"We encourage voter education and engagement for real choice, the election of folks who will actually work with each other to help solve the problems of California and the country, to break the gridlock that we've had," he said.
The reforms produced same-party primary winners this year in two of the 17 California state Senate races and 17 of the 80 Assembly contests. In the state's 53 U.S. House districts, eight primary outcomes saw same-party primary winners, including some incumbents whose districts were redrawn, forcing them to run against each other.
To volunteer at a voter registration drive, visit the AARP California website. To read the voter guide that provides state and federal candidates' positions on Social Security, Medicare and retirement security, visit aarp.org/ca or facebook.com/aarpcalifornia.
Also of interest: Power of the 50-plus voters.
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