Rally kicks off voter registration education project

January 20, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — At 10 a.m. Saturday a group of community activists gathered in Rockwood Plaza near City Hall here to rally and map out strategy for a day of registering voters.

Their timing was perfect.

Under a nearby plaza gazebo, members of a local Pentecostal church cooked up carne asada, beans and rice for an unrelated fund raiser.

Calexico Housing Authority Commissioner Danny Santillan grabbed some food and a can of soda for a good cause as church members started to arrive for their event.


Santillan would need the energy.

On Saturday he participated in the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.

After a short rally at the plaza, Santillan and other project participants spread out to various Calexico locales to register voters for the March 5 election.

They were the people standing in front of local restaurants or stores, talking to people and passing out bumper stickers.

The registration drive will continue next weekend as well.

Juan Gallegos of SVREP said his group hopes to register 3,000 voters and get 2,000 voters to vote absentee. SVREP is concentrating local efforts in Calexico.

Gallegos said outreach will include phone calls, home visits and registration drives similar to Saturday's rally.

"We hope to establish a relationship in order to get people out to vote," he said.

Some people might hang up on him or ignore him when he knocks on their door but Gallegos expects that.

"That's our job," he said.

While SVREP is non-partisan and non-profit, Gallegos said the group tries to build alliances with political groups such as the Mexican American Political Association that have a vested interest in voter registration.

"They realize the tool we provide and they run with it," he said.

Santillan, a MAPA member and paid coordinator for SVREP, said, "First thing people ask us is who we are for. We tell them, ‘We're just here to get you to vote.'"

Commenting on the low turnout at Saturday's rally, Santillan said he called a number of candidates for local office but they were busy putting up signs or organizing fund-raising parties.

As Santillan packed up bumper stickers and hats and got ready to head over to the local Denny's, two city officials who attended Saturday's rally explained why they did.

Mayor Victor Carrillo said it is important to back grassroots organizations that sign up recent immigrants and others to vote. Carrillo said he would be impressed if SVREP is able to register 3,000 or so new voters.

"A number near or above that is something to look forward to," he said.

Mayor Pro Tem John Renison said he attended the rally because he supports the concept.

"It's not good for democracy if the same people vote in every election," he said.

Renison vowed to get out next weekend in front of the Wal-Mart and register people himself.

Said Carrillo: "This council is proactive. We realize the people's vote is their voice."

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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