News And Politics

South LA has mixed feelings on whether voting's worthwhile

June 4, 2012, 3:53 p.m.

When asked about Tuesday's primary election, Ajani Muhammad, 23, says, "Why vote when I'm still going to be stuck and lost out on the streets anyway?" (Credit: José Martinez/OnCentral)

In "OnCentral on Foot," we approach people at random in the streets of South L.A. and ask them their thoughts on the world and community in which they live. This time, we asked them if they'd be voting in California's primary election, which takes place on Tuesday.

Voters will choose their next congressional representative, senator, district attorney (and more), as well as cast their vote on measures like Proposition 28 and 29. We asked folks on the southside if they were registered and, if so, whether they we're planning to vote. KPCC has more on tomorrow's election.

Ajani Muhammad, 23

You said you're not planning on voting tomorrow. Why not?
I know it concerns me, but at the same time, it really doesn't have anything to do with me. I'm not into all that voting stuff. But with Obama, I voted! (laughs)

How do you respond to those who say local elections have a greater, more immediate effect on you than national elections?
That's another thing. You get all these fake people that want to get up in there and they promise a lot of people things, like they're going to fix the streets, or they're going to help this out, or they're going to do that – but they never do it. So it's like why vote when I'm still going to be stuck and lost out on the streets anyway? What's up with that?

Is your feeling that voting doesn't do anything for places like South L.A., where there are a lot of social issues manifesting, like a higher rate of poverty?
It does, but it doesn't affect us in a big way. It doesn't even help us out because we're so small on the food chain. For people like us, who are on general relief, [Supplemental Security Income], food stamps, stuff like that – it really doesn't help us. Because we're not doing anything. Just walking around, trying to find something to do for the next day. Trying to get a job left and right, get fired, go to school, come back.

So what will spark real change, if not voting?
I can't say. If voting doesn't help the situation, I really can't say. What would help, in the long run, is if everybody would come together more. There's a lot of discrimination going on right now, there's a lot of things going on in the mix, so if everybody just looked out for each other, everybody would be good.

Fransheska Fajardo, 23

You said you're not registered to vote. Do you want to be?
Not really. I'm pretty indifferent about voting. I don't know – I just don't feel like it. (laughs)

Do you think it's important?
No. It doesn't really change anything, and I've never really been challenged on that. And I don't plan on registering to vote.

Marvin Rodas, 32

You said you plan to vote tomorrow. What issues are most important to you in this election?
My biggest thing is getting my community cleaned up – the graffiti, the trash. That's been my primary focus. That's been my point of view, prioritizing cleaning up the community and doing things for the youth.

Have you done any research into tomorrow's issues, regarding the district attorney election or the decision on Prop. 28 and 29, for example?
No, I haven't followed that closely.

Local and state elections tend to not be as popular and have as high a turnout as presidential elections. Why do you think that is?
It could be because the community itself is not politically involved, or maybe the local elections haven't been as publicized. I haven't really heard much about it.

Why do you think that is, that this community isn't really involved?
Lack of education. Lack of caring. A high number of individuals who can't vote, because of their criminal record or legal status. That takes a toll after a while, considering a large majority of people here are of immigrant background.

What kind of effects do you think that has on the community in terms of people who don't vote?
People who don't vote don't get represented politically, so therefore they have no political say or power. It's reflected in our streets – they're dirty. Politicians don't really care about us because there isn't a large number of voters here.

Naomi Young, 28

You said you will vote tomorrow. What are the most important issues for you in this election?
I've got to take a look at my ballot booklet when I get home tonight because I really haven't been keeping up. But I know the primary is tomorrow and I know I have to vote. But I don't know what I'm voting for, as of right now.

Why do you say that, that you "do have to vote"?
Because I feel like I want to make a difference and it's a good thing to vote. I have the right to, I'm registered, so why not?

Local elections aren't as sexy as presidential or even state elections. Why is important – or is it – to vote tomorrow?
Because I vote every time, whether it's a state or local or federal. I haven't missed an election since I registered when I turned 18.

How do you respond to people who say their vote doesn't mean anything because they're just one person?
To each his own. If they feel that way, that's their personal prerogative. I can't judge them because they don't want to vote, I just feel that you have your right to vote or not to vote. It's a personal choice.

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