Inside the Voting Booth: Young Latinos and the Importance of Civic Education

Inside the Voting Booth: Young Latinos and the Importance of Civic Education
Foto: Archive

Pierre Sandoval, an 18 year old college freshman from Los Angeles, already knows who he will vote for in this year’s presidential election. Born in the United States to parents from Mexico, Sandoval already voted for the first time in California’s primary elections on June 5th, and is looking forward to making his voice heard in November.

As a senior in high school, Sandoval earned top marks in Advanced Placement United States History and Government. But like many students who take a semester or year-long civics course, Sandoval says the actual process of voting can be complex and overly complicated.

“I’m really excited to go out and vote, because my parents won’t be able to,” he said. “But while our teachers talk about the political process and urge us to vote, they never really teach us how.”

After years of classes and lectures on the importance of voting, Sandoval is a little uncomfortable admitting that he finds the process of casting a vote confusing. But his experience is far from an anomaly, said Mark López, assistant director of the Pew Hispanic Center.

“Today’s Civic Education classes focus less on the mechanics of civic education – including how to vote – than they use to,” Lopez said. Additionally, “young Latinos are more likely than other youth to say it was difficult to register to vote and to actually vote”.

Nevertheless, voters in the 2012 elections will use more than six different types of voting machines, each with a unique ballot form and instructions.

And while some of the newer machines will incorporate new and innovative technologies such as touch screens, 67% of all voters will use paper ballots that can be difficult to mark or read in the short time in which voters will have to cast a ballot, according to Surbhi Godsay, lead researcher for The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, or CIRCLE.

To better prepare yourself before going to the polls, we have posted the following two guides to the most common forms of voting: the paper ballot, and the electronic touch-screen voting machine.

Paper Ballots

In the first case, modern paper ballots are marked with pen and filled into an optical scanner, which will verify that a ballot has been filled out correctly before accepting it.

Electronic Voting Machines

In the case of electronic touch screen voting machines, voters will select their choices on a touch screen have the chance to review their choices before confirming their ballot.