Constitution Day celebrates rights, emphasizes importance of voting


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Criminal justice major Ben Hayunga peeks into one of the many voter registration booths stationed around the campus during the Constitution Day event held in the Campus Center Plaza.

By Xavier Johnson, Web Editor

Mobilizing students to get excited to learn about the political process and vote in the upcoming November elections is the primary fall semester goal for the Community Organizing and Political Action (COPA) club.
With the Nov. 6 Election Day fast approaching, COPA is looking for methods to get students a grasp of the issues registered to vote so they are armed with knowledge when they hit the polls.
COPA President Rebecca Hernandez said in previous semesters community nonprofits would come onto campus and man informative tables. However, club leaders felt that the efforts didn’t resonate with students. Instead, this time they wanted to use a more student-focused approach to get out the vote.
“When students talk to their peers, it sounds better than when it comes from an older person who isn’t a student,” Hernandez said.
On Monday, during the Constitution Day event on campus, the club hosted a screening of “Street Fight” and a discussion with Richmond City Council candidate Demnlus Johnson in GE-225 from 2-4 p.m.
In the Campus Center Plaza, tables were set up for students to get voting information and also to register to vote. And there were banners posted around campus for each amendment in the Bill of Rights.
“Street Fight,” directed by Marshall Curry, is a documentary that chronicles the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey between incumbent Sharpe James and his challenger Cory Booker, who is now a United States senator from New Jersey.
The documentary follows the Booker mayoral campaign as it tries to unseat the 16-year mayoral run of James. Political science major Ana Delgado said it was shocking to see how campaigns and elections are conducted.
“You know all that goes on, but seeing it is way different,” she said.
During the campaign, Booker deals with several instances of unethical behavior from James and his supporters, including intimidating Booker supporters and using city inspectors to intimidate businesses that back Booker.
Associated Students Union Vice President Chris Miller said he hopes the film shows students that their voice carry weight. He said students should take the opportunity to talk to Johnson, who potentially will represent their interests in the near future if they live in Richmond.
After the screening, Johnson answered questions from students. Many of the questions students asked were about different ways to get involved or about the political system in general.
One student asked how people get involved on local commissions and another inquired about what politicians mean when they talk about working with small businesses.
Johnson said when he gets questions from politically uninformed voters, a lot of those questions have to do with the process of how to vote.
“They don’t know where or how to vote and a lot of politicians will exploit that,” he said.
During the film Hernandez passed out two sheets. One sheet detailed California voter registration information, like where to register, important deadlines and a summary of information about the November elections.
The second sheet provided information on East Bay organizations and events to give students an opportunity to learn about local issues and get involved in as an activist in local politics.
Delgado said she is inspired to get politically active and is even considering an eventual run for (Richmond) city council.
“We’ve been put down for so long and have seen no progress,” Delgado said. “There is so much unfairness and a lot of people just don’t care.”
Hernandez said a lot of voters are disenfranchised with the political system and that is a significant barrier preventing them from energizing voters.
COPA will be holding its next meeting is on Sept. 26 from 1-2 p.m. in GE-305.