LOS ANGELES - In the coming year, the U.S. political parties will work to mobilize voters before the November 2016 presidential election. The get-out-the-vote effort already has started.
In Los Angeles and other American cities, the parties are competing to register new voters at naturalization ceremonies, where many new citizens want to participate in the political system of their adopted country.
Seven hundred people took the oath of citizenship on a recent morning near Los Angeles. Some also registered as voters, including Indian immigrant Sulochana Gutla.
“We just became citizens and we of course want to use all the privileges of citizens,” said Gutla.
Gutla was registering as a Republican, near a cardboard cutout of former President Ronald Reagan that was standing watch over the party’s registration table. Nearby stood a cutout of President Barack Obama, a more recognizable figure for most new citizens, who stopped to pose for a photo with it.
A Democratic Party canvasser asserted that his party is the best for working families. Republicans countered with their message: a strong and prosperous America with a smaller, more efficient government.
The parties agree on one thing, said Jeff Schwartz, a Democrat: “We need everybody's help in making the best decisions for our country and for our community.”
For a new citizen from Mauritius, Neelam Laxmee, it's about the candidates, especially her favorite, Republican Donald Trump.
“Go Trump,” Laxmee exclaimed.
For new citizen Babatunde Oluyide from Nigeria, the parties are key. Which party is he embracing? “Democrat all the way, baby,” he insisted. “Democrat.”
Republican volunteer Sylvia Southerland sees Obama as ineffective, and she wants change. She has a list of issues she thinks are critical for the next president, including education.
“More jobs,” she added. “I want there to be health care. I'm worried about water.”
July Barclay from Australia, a newly registered Democrat, has other concerns.
“I think there is huge income inequality in this country,” Barclay said. “I believe that corporations have too much power, that the poverty rate is increasing.”
Volunteers from both parties, including Democrat Jerry Reynolds, said they were helping their country get better.
“We try to come every time that there's a naturalization ceremony,” Reynolds said. “It's a good thing to do.”
The success of the parties in enticing new voters depends partly upon location. Democrats dominate in California, especially Los Angeles, where the region’s large Hispanic population, which makes up nearly half of Los Angeles County, is mostly Democratic.
Other towns and states have different demographics and party allegiances.
The voter registration efforts will intensify during the next year before the U.S. general election on November 8, 2016. Then the parties face the challenge of motivating their supporters to get out and vote.
They also must appeal to the growing number of voters with no party affiliation. Unaffiliated voters now constitute nearly one-quarter of the California electorate.