On February 21, Vermont Senator and presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders visited Valley High School on his only Southern California stop to help promote newly introduced voting centers and to encourage voters not registered to a specific party to request a Democratic ballot to participate in the primaries.
While this was a campaign rally at heart, Sanders remained adamant that he doesn’t care which Democratic nominee you vote for, he just wants more people to vote overall. On average, only about 60% of registered voters vote in presidential elections and 54% or less vote in lower elections.
Although Sanders’ supporters come from varied backgrounds, the main points that seemed to unite them were his ideas on climate change, his view of citizens as individuals instead of votes and his position as an outsider to both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Ilyana Recitas of Costa Mesa supports him because, “he has the most comprehensive plans on climate change of any democratic nominee, and someone has to do something to protect the planet.” As an immigrant from Mexico, this is the first election she’ll be eligible to vote.
For another attendee, Ricardo Roberto, from La Habra, Sanders’ draw is in his character. “I’ve been a supporter of Bernie since 2016,” he says. “I’ve always felt like he sees us as individuals and people instead of just a vote.”
After an opening performance by Grammy-nominated reggae artists Pato Banton & The Now Generation, several people spoke on behalf of Sanders, including a student, a Registered Nurse and the Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County.
Party Chair Ada Briceňo spoke about her experience as a Nicaraguan immigrant, whose parents fled their home country when she was six due to civil war. For her Sanders, who heavily supports unions and immigration reform, gives her a sense of being viewed as people instead of commodities or votes.
Voting centers open across the state starting Feb. 25, with one open on campus in the Village (VL-210) from Feb. 29 to March 2 from 8 a.m. – 8 p.m., and March 3 from 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.