Five Towns Hispanic Association hosts voter registration drive

Deadline to register for this election is Oct. 12

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The Five Towns Hispanic Association hoped to take advantage of schools and businesses being closed on Columbus/Indigenous Peoples’ Day, by hosting a voter registration event at the Five Towns Community Center in Lawrence on Oct. 8.

On Nov. 6, New Yorkers can vote in state and federal races, however, Oct. 12 is the deadline for voters to register.

Marianella Mena and Matthew Russo, Hispanic Association members, helped register new voters so that they can vote in November. “The association was looking to give anyone who hasn’t registered yet the opportunity to,” said Mena, adding that she volunteered to help translate for any Spanish-speakers who might need assistance.

Danny Amaya and Danielle Portillo, both 19 and Lawrence High School graduates, were two of the first to register. Both were looking for the opportunity to become involved the electoral process for the first time. “Any influence we can have is a good thing,” Amaya said. “If you can help make a change, why not do something about it?”

“It’s just important to have our voices heard,” said Portillo, adding that more stringent gun laws was one issue among many that matters to her. Amaya said that he’s looking for someone who can help build up area. “[The community] used to be big on having one hand helping the other,” he said. “I feel like it’s not like that anymore … That’s how [big change] starts though, you work inside [the community] and expand outwards.”

Richard Schroeder, the campaign manager for Democratic State Assembly candidate Juan Vides, dropped off 50 voter registration form in English, 50 in Spanish and offered to bring the completed forms to the Board of Elections.

Vides, a resident of Oceanside who regularly works with the Five Towns Hispanic Association, is running against incumbent Republican State Assemblywoman Melissa Miller in the 20th district, which includes the Five Towns, Island Park, Long Beach, Oceanside, parts of Rockville Centre and Point Lookout.

“The whole campaign has been focusing on getting Latino voters registered and voting, particularly in these communities of Inwood and Lawrence,” Schroeder said. “Nobody thought we would win this primary, and then we did. In large part due to big turnout right here in Inwood and Lawrence, Spanish-speaking areas.”

The Vides campaign wasn’t involved in planning the event, and Schroeder stressed that they weren’t looking to make this a Vides event. Increased voter turnout is the goal.

“This is good for everybody,” Schroeder said. “It’s really good for democracy in general … When you get more turnout the area could get more political power, because politicians want to listen to them, especially Democrats that want to win. And it’s obviously good for our campaign individually and Democrats in general in the area coming into November.”