Everyone Has a Role to Play in the Election of our Lifetimes
At the risk of sounding dramatic, I think I can safely say that there has never been a more consequential election in my lifetime. Some of our fundamental rights, which we often take for granted, are under attack. One way or the other, what happens next week will shape our lives for many years to come and could very well alter the course of our democracy.
Central to this is the power of our vote. Nothing is more important than ensuring that every eligible voter is registered and casts their ballot, and that every single vote is counted. The right to vote and to have our vote counted is the essential cornerstone of our democracy. It is also a right that we must all work together to protect.
The fact is that everyone has a role they can play to ensure that voting is accessible and safe; that people turn out to vote; that the rules are applied fairly; and that the results are respected.
At the East Bay Community Foundation, we have tried to do our part to help strengthen our democracy and fight for the causes that we believe are critical to our East Bay community. We have supported a broad set of organizations doing the kind of essential community organizing that will make sure that the voices of people who have historically been excluded are heard loud and clear.
We are also doing our part to share information across our networks about how to support the democratic process at this important moment. To that end, we have a few simple messages to share with you, and we encourage you to share with others.
- Register to vote (if you’re eligible) and commit to casting your ballot. As we look across the country, we are sometimes horrified to see the obstacles that are placed in front of people who just want to exercise their most precious right under our constitution. California is somewhat better than other states. Every registered California voter received a vote by mail ballot. If you didn’t receive your ballot or forgot to register, don’t worry. You can still register or reregister to vote, up to and including election day. To do so, voters need to complete the Same Day Voter Registration process and go in person with identification to their local elections office or polling location to request a ballot.
- Help others register to vote and make a plan for them to cast their ballot. If you know people who are eligible to vote but not registered yet, help them get registered. You can help them navigate the voter registration process using a resource like vote.org.
- Sign up to be a poll worker. There is currently a shortage. Without enough poll workers there will be fewer polling places, which can decrease voter turnout. You can learn more about this at www.powerthepolls.org.
- Be patient. California’s electoral laws were designed to ensure that every vote gets counted. The state extended the deadline for mail ballots to be received to November 20 to make sure every ballot is tallied. This means that it will take a month to get the final election results in California and nationwide. Some people take this as a sign that California is somehow disorganized or inefficient. This is in fact exactly opposite of the truth. This is California’s process to ensure that every vote is counted, and we should be proud of that.
- Vote YES on Propositions 15 and 16. Finally, in addition to the most important presidential election of our lifetimes, there are a wide range of state and local elections that are deeply consequential. Two statewide initiatives that we are strongly urging our friends and colleagues to support are Propositions 15 and 16.
Proposition 15, also known as Schools and Communities First, would ensure that large corporations pay their fair share in property taxes, while guaranteeing existing property tax protections for homes, small businesses, and agricultural land. Passing this extremely important initiative would provide more than $11 billion a year to our schools and vital community services.
Proposition 16 expands employment and education opportunity to all Californians, including those who have been historically shut out. Amazingly, California is one of only nine states that bans affirmative action as a tool to fight discrimination. Proposition 16 is our chance to change that by ending the ban and expanding opportunity for all.
This has been a long and very challenging year. We are still deep in the throes of a health crisis that has upended our lives and left us unsure about the future. The run-up to this election has been exhilarating and exhausting and has brought out the best in our community. We are truly inspired by the courage and tenacity of our donors, our grantees, and our community partners. They are dedicating themselves to build a better future for everyone and to advancing an inclusive, fair, and just East Bay. One thing is clear – whatever happens next week, we will be here to support your efforts, lend our voice, and move forward together to build a better community. It is an honor and a privilege to be your partner in this vital work.
James W. Head
President and Chief Executive Officer
East Bay Community Foundation