November 4, 2008 Ballot Recommendations: Part 1

October 16, 2008 by · 7 Comments 

On November 4, voters in the state of California will go to the polls not only to vote their choice for President, but also to vote on numerous statewide propositions that will impact the state’s economy. They will be selecting their representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives and the California State Legislature.  EGP makes the following ballot recommendations:

Prop 1A—High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act. Measure would provide for a bond issue of $9.95 billion to establish high-speed rail train service linking Southern California counties with the Sacramento/San Joaquin Valley and San Francisco Bay Area. EGP strongly supports public transit, but in this case the payment of bond principal and interest from the state general fund already in the red, makes this a good idea at the wrong time.
Vote No

Prop 2—Standards for Confining Farm Animals.
Requires that calves, raised for veal, egg laying hens and pregnant pigs be confined only in ways that allow them to lie down, stretch their limbs, stand up and fully extend their limbs and turn around. We find nothing wrong in a civilized society requiring all animals to be housed in a humane way.
Vote Yes

Prop 3—Children’s Hospital Bond Act. Grant Program. Authorizes $980,000,000 in bonds to be repaid by the states general, to fund the construction expansion, remodeling, renovation, furnishing and equipping of children’s hospitals. We wouldn’t further encumber a state general fund already billions in the red. Sometimes there just isn’t enough money to do everything that the state should be doing.
Vote No

Prop 4—Waiting Period and Parental Notification Before Termination of Minors Pregnancy. We don’t believe that a majority of parents wouldn’t be supportive of their daughter’s welfare if she is pregnant, and we don’t believe a forty-eight hour wait to notify one adult in a minor’s life about an unintended pregnancy is unreasonable.
Vote Yes

Prop 5—Nonviolent Drug Offenses. Sentencing, Parole and Rehabilitation. Advocates $460,000,000 annually to improve treatment programs for persons convicted of drug offenses and other offenses. This proposition limits court authority to incarcerate offenders who commit certain drug crimes, break drug treatment rules or violate parole. It is our belief that with the state now under court order to expand and improve health services, incarcerated drug offenders are better treated in prison facilities. We are also not supportive of the fact that other offenses are also covered by this proposition. We are also opposed to another county, state authority with two secretaries and a 19-member board being created.
Vote No

Prop 6—Police and Law Enforcement Funding. Requires a minimum of $ 965,000,000 each year be allocated from state General Fund for police, sheriffs, district attorneys and adult and juvenile jail facilities. We do not approve of the state’s General Fund being further earmarked, this allows less discretion on how to use state funds.
Vote No

Prop 7—Renewable Energy Generation.
Requires all utilities to generate 20 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2010. Raises requirement by 40 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2025. Imposes penalties for non-compliance, transfers some jurisdiction from state PUC to Energy Commission, fast tracks approval for renewable energy plants. And requires utilities to sign longer contracts, 20 year minimum, to procure renewable energy. We oppose this Proposition because it may hamstring renewable energy businesses and development. While its intentions may be admirable and desirable, the wording may actually hamper the intended goal.
Vote No

Prop 8—Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Why is this Proposition on the ballot? Government cannot legislate morality. We believe marriage should mean a man and a woman becoming wedded, but if gays believe they are morally entitled to legally wed, we don’t believe there is anything that will change their minds. The courts have already affirmed this right, so should we.
Vote No

While we would like to see more competition for our legislative offices, particularly given the lack of leadership so glaringly demonstrated at all -levels of our government. Eastern Group Publications, for the most part, however, grudgingly endorses the following for elected office:

US Congress
District 27—Brad Sherman
District 28—Howard Berman
District 29—Adam Schiff
District 30—Henry Waxman
District 31—Xavier Becerra
District 32—Hilda Solis
District 33—Dianne Watson
District 34—Lucille Roybal-Allard
District 35—Maxine Waters
District 36—Jane Harman
District 37—Laura Richardson
District 38—Grace Napolitano
District 39—Linda Sanchez
District 40—Christina Avalos
District 42—Ed Chau
District 43—Joe Baca

California State Senate
District 21—Carol Liu
District 23—Fran Pavley
District 25—Rod Wright
District 27—Alan Lowenthal
District 39—Christine Kehoe

California State Assembly
District 42—Mike Feuer
District 44—Anthony Portantino
District 45—Kevin DeLeon
District 46—John A. Perez
District 47—Karen Bass
District 49—Mike Eng
District 50—Hector De La Torre
District 53—Ted Lieu
District 54—Bonnie Lowenthal
District 55—Warren Furutani
District 56—Tony Mendoza
District 57—Ed Hernandez
District 58—Charles Calderon

Los Angeles County
Supervisor (2nd District) —Mark Ridley-Thomas
District Attorney—Steve Cooley

Largest U.S. Fast Aims to Turn Out Voters

October 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The largest hunger strike in U.S. history will begin Oct. 15, to call attention to voter mobilization, immigrant rights organizers say. One hundred dedicated activists will encamp at the historic heart of Los Angeles — La Placita Olvera — to fast for 21 days before the Nov. 4 elections. They expect to be joined by thousands across the country who will fast for at least one day and dedicate themselves to building a massive voter turnout.

The “Fast for our Future” campaign aims to unite millions of fasters across the country and raise awareness for immigrant rights during the elections. (Photo by Rosalio Munoz)

The “Fast for our Future” campaign aims to unite millions of fasters across the country and raise awareness for immigrant rights during the elections. (Photo by Rosalio Munoz)

The fast dramatizes a nationwide pledge/petition effort aiming to gather one million people committed to “vote for immigrant rights, fast at least one day, recruit five family and friends to sign the pledge and take action to hold the new administration accountable for our votes.”

Conceived in the nonviolent action tradition of civil rights leader Martin Luther King and farm labor leader Cesar Chavez, the “Fast for our Future” (fastforourfuture.com) is organizing online, by word of mouth and through social, cultural and political networks. It is closely tied to civil rights, labor, religious groups and coalitions that support immigrant rights.

The fast is being initiated by RISE, a movement of immigrants rights leaders and advocates which focuses on nonviolent action to confront the escalation of anti-immigrant raids, deportations and other repressive Bush administration measures. Endorsers include Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers union; Maria Elena Durazo, leader of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO; the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA); Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice; Institute of Popular Education of Southern California; and the Korean Resource Center.Angelica Salas, director of CHIRLA, said at an Oct. 1 press conference here, “The raids will continue and will keep on going if we do not unite, do not vote and do not keep putting on pressure. There is one choice: remain silent without taking action, or unite, fast and vote.”

Referring to deportation raids carried out during the previous three weeks in California, in which 1,150 immigrants were arrested, L.A. labor leader Durazo said, “We cannot abandon the thousands of children separated from or deported with their parents.”

Some 5 million children in the United States have at least one undocumented parent. Most of these children are U.S. citizens.

The Bush administration’s record of immigrant repression is chilling. In recent years the federal Immigration Control and Enforcement agency (ICE) has steadily increased raids and deportations, reaching a record 276,912 in 2007. ICE’s Fugitive Operations Teams have increased from 18 in 2005 to 50 in 2006 and 75 in 2007. Detentions have increased from 5,532 in 1994 to 27,500 in 2007. The number of anti-immigrant hate groups and anti-Hispanic hate crimes has steadily grown.

However, the transition of the immigrant rights movement from marching to voting is also on the rise. In the 2006 elections, many anti-immigrant Republican congressional candidates were defeated in large part due to greater Latino voting. Immigration is an important issue to Latino communities across the country.
In this year’s presidential primaries, the Latino vote more than doubled, with big increases in votes for Democrats and rejection of Republicans. Massive citizenship and voter registration drives are expected to increase the national Latino turnout from 7.6 million in 2006 to 9.3 million or more this year. Many predict that record get-out-the-vote efforts, especially with initiatives like this month’s fast, could result in over 10 million Latino voters who favor Democrats over Republicans by more than 2-1. The Democratic Party platform supports legalization and due process, while the Republican Party platform opposes legalization and supports greater repressive enforcement. The Fast for our Future is nonpartisan and leaves it to people to check out the positions and actions of the candidates. It stresses the issues and the importance of voting. Organizers say that for anti-immigrant groups the issue of immigration is primarily ideological, but for the immigrants, their families, communities and co-workers it is a matter of day-to-day survival.

Rosalio Munoz, coordinator of Latinos For Peace, Southern California correspondent for the People’s Weekly World and a northeast L.A resident since 1950.

Commerce Candidate Forum Proves Lonely Affair

October 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

The entire slate of recall election candidates who are set to challenge the seats of Commerce city Mayor Tina Baca Del Rio and Councilman Robert Fierro on Nov 4 were no shows at last week’s candidates forum.

At the Oct 1 forum sponsored by the Industrial Council, the public posed a wide variety of questions ranging from broad issues like the environment to specifics like city programs for the handicapped to a panel made up of Del Rio, Fierro, and a row of empty seats and unclaimed name cards.

“I think it was a greatly missed opportunity,” said Industrial Council Executive Director, Eddie Tafoya. “I think if you’re ready to become a great city leader, this is a great opportunity for any individual to showcase their platform and their beliefs, and their overall goals for the residents and the entire community.”

The Industrial Council’s interest in holding the forum is to keep the Commerce business community informed about the upcoming election, Tafoya says. “What happens in city hall ultimately has an effect on our industrial community…” he says.

But four of the five council hopefuls boycotted the forum, claiming Tafoya has an unusually close relationship with the two council members who are defending their seats. The challengers claim the forum would be rigged against them.

The four candidates sent a letter to the League of Women Voters, which facilitated the forum, and to the Industrial Council claiming the event is an inappropriate and self-serving use of public funds and would unfairly favor the two incumbents being recalled. The letter ends with the candidates stating they would not participate in a forum they considered to be a “blatant misuse of public funds for the political benefit and gain of Mr. Fierro and Mrs. Del Rio.”

Tafoya says the League of Women Voters is a highly regarded, non-partisan organization. “Their main purpose is to encourage and inform, and to promote active participation of citizens in their own in government. They don’t support candidates and they don’t endorse people,” he says.

“The industrial council went before the city council to ask to have it videotaped… and it was [Mayor] Tina [Baca Del Rio], [Councilman] Robert [Fierro], and [Councilman] Joe [Aguilar] — the three of them who went ahead and approved the $1,750 to spend to video tape this forum and to have it at a city facility and then running it on city cable,” Lilia Leon, one of the candidates who signed the letter, told EGP the night before the forum was to be held.

“If the Industrial Council wanted a video tape, why isn’t the industrial council paying for it? Why is the city paying for it? And why are we having it at a city facility? And why are we putting it on city cable? … We’re not going because it’s going to be another abuse to put it – if it’s a candidate’s forum, it should have only the candidates,” she says.

The four candidates also took issue with the inclusion of Fierro and Del Rio in the forum. In explaining this point, Leon suggested the playing field would not have been equal between the council members and their challengers. “How do you ask one question to five candidates running for city council versus the two people being recalled? What are you going to do for our community?’ The five candidates could answer that, but the incumbents can say what they’ve already [done] … you know we’ve never had a recall forum so we weren’t sure what the criteria was… “ she said.

Most of the candidates are running for their first council seat, except for Leon and Jesus C. Cervantes who have both served as mayors for the city.

Art Gonzalez also signed the letter stating he would boycott the forum. He rejects the idea of Del Rio and Fierro being included.

“The forum was for the candidates, not for the constituents [sic]. It’s kind of like saying George Bush will be attending [the U.S. presidential debates]. It’s like saying he should attend, when he’s on his way out. If the recall goes through [Del Rio and Fierro] are automatically out of the picture. They’re not eligible to be elected instantly on the same ballot…”

However, the League of Women Voters’ facilitator Margo Reeg says the current council members have the right to defend their seats. “In the case of a recall, it is only fair that the city council members have the opportunity to represent themselves in the forum,” Reeg told the forum audience.

Gonzalez added that while he signed the letter and agreed with his fellow candidates that the forum was unfairly set up, he also had a scheduling conflict that prevented him from attending.

Cervantes was the only candidate who did not sign the letter, and he told EGP on the night before the forum that he would be participating.

“I said I was going. I gave my word and I’m not afraid of whatever they can say,” he told EGP.
However, Cervantes ended up not attending. He told EGP that he “realized the whole thing was being done illegally because the two council members, because they vote in this case and the local channel is paid for by the city, this is against the California law for council members to do that. That’s why I decided not to be part of that,” he said.

Commerce’s public information officer, Brian Wolfson, said however that city attorney was asked to determine if the city municipal channel could be used to video tape their forum, if the channel could be used to air the finished forum. He determined there was no misuse, and that it is an appropriate use.
Cervantes disagrees. “Those are the laws. Council members cannot vote in anything that can benefit him or herself. The council members can’t vote for anything that would be a conflict of interest,” he says.

Reeg said that while they would have preferred a full dais, the League decided to allow the forum to go on.

The 200-person capacity meeting room at Rosewood Park was nearly packed during the forum. Questions from the public were collected from the audience and filtered by the League of Women Voters volunteers.

In their opening statements, the incumbents took the opportunity to reacquaint voters to their biographies.

Fierro spoke of his 35 years as a resident in Commerce with roots in the Veterans Park area. From his childhood involvement in a variety of athletics, he moved into careers as a city employee, later becoming a probation officer, and settling down as a teacher. He stated his dedication to keeping the city “corrupt free” and said his goal is to promote fiscal responsibility.

Del Rio says she is a 45 year resident of Commerce where she was born and raised. Her family has been in the city for five generations. “We’re deep-rooted in the city of Commerce. It matters, the city really does matter to myself and my family,” she said.

“It’s very hard to be up here defending my seat and my honor, because when I came in, I came in with integrity, and if I go out, I’ll go out with the same thing.”

The public was interested in a variety of issues. One of the early questions was about programs for the handicapped, which both Fierro and Del Rio embraced, saying the city should work to bring more of the city’s many community services to people with disabilities.

Residents also sought details on how the panel would address trucks parking or idling illegally in residential neighborhoods. Both recommended more enforcement, with Del Rio referring specifically to code enforcement measures and resources that could be strengthened as part of the city’s Keep Commerce Beautiful campaign.

The council members were asked how they propose to make good use of the city’s environmental justice task force and how it views the proposed power plant in Vernon. Both council members have long been outspoken about their opposition to the power plant, which the city recently protested through a candlelight vigil. In order to further the environmental justice policies in the city, Del Rio and Fierro recommended keeping channels open with local environmental groups.

The two incumbents addressed the economy in one question that asked how Commerce would work regionally to “restart the economy.”

“You know, it’s hard because I don’t know if a regional effort is exactly what we need at this point. I think what we’re trying to do locally is making sure our budget is balanced and so forth,” Del Rio said.
Fierro said much of the city’s stability comes from the revenue it gets from the Commerce Casino. “Fortunately the city of Commerce because of our budget and the way we structure it and the way we emphasize and put our moneys, and of course, thanks to Commerce Casino we’re able to balance and make the appropriate decisions for you guys, the residents,” he said.

The incumbents both spoke about preserving the residential community in the city. “I don’t see a big issue especially with this city being so small and so family-oriented… We’ve got to support our families… and housing is one of the keys to keeping family here in Commerce for many years,” Fierro said.

The incumbents were accused by the recall proponents of abusing the city’s car privileges. One of the perks granted council members is a car to drive between city events. Del Rio said such perks, as well as the medical benefits and stipends are approved by the entire city council.

In his closing statement, Fierro lamented that “special interests” are interested in their seats. “The city is going in a different direction, but we will fight. We care for you guys,” he says.

Del Rio says special interests want to take over the city. She summed up her feelings about the recall election, saying  “The community deserves who they elect. And if we are removed, you will be faced with individuals who are going to change our city. You better believe the city is going to be changed in a big way. And it’s not going to be the comfortable city that you know now…“ she said.

Commerce Candidates Forum – Airs on Commerce’s cable Channel 55 and streams online at http://www.ci.commerce.ca.us until November 4:

Mondays at 2 pm; Tuesdays at 1:30  & 10 pm; Wednesdays at 4 & 8 pm.; Thursdays at 8:30 pm; Fridays at 9:30 am & 9:30 pm; Saturdays at 6:30 pm; Sundays at 9am & 10.

Will Latino Youth Become More Politically Active?

October 9, 2008 by · 2 Comments 

Marshall High School students fill out voter registration forms after a Vote18 workshop. (EGP Photo by Stacie Chan)

With less than one month until possibly the most historic election in America’s history, many say, voting organizations have been fervently attempting to inspire political activism in youth.

But it hasn’t been easy.

In the last presidential election, in 2004, only 45 percent of 18-24 year-olds in California voted. Only one out of every three  Latinos age 18-24 years old cast their ballot, according to the website www.CIRCLE.org.

Hoping these numbers increase in the next election, Jose Orea, 18, and Joanna Flores, 17, members of United Students, an organization that encourages students to know their rights, spoke to Yolanda Roura’s lackluster Art class of 11th and 12th graders at Garfield High School back in August, emphasizing the value of registering and voting. Yet not even interactive skits could entice students to turn their heads toward the presenters.

When Orea asked the students if they wished to register to vote, not a single hand raised.

A presentation to Jeff Matsumura’s 11th grade English class at Roosevelt High School elicited the same lukewarm interest.

At Marshall High School, Walt Townes and Marco Ceglie, founders of Vote18, an organization that encourages youth to register and vote, gave an interactive presentation to Marcia Slaten’s much more lively AP Government class of 11th and 12th graders.

But for some, these engagements was short-lived.

When asked if she would continue discussing politics outside of the classroom, Roosevelt Junior Zaira Garcia, 16, said, “I’m not really interested in politics, but I would become more involved when our voices could be heard, not just the white people’s.”

It was almost automatic for many students to answer “No” when asked if they were interested in politics. When asked “Why?” many searched for an answer even they couldn’t come up with.

Gabriela Perez, 20, a graduate of Garfield High School, offered an explanation for the 66 percent of Latinos her age who do not vote, “It’s a shame that Latino youth aren’t getting involved, because policies do affect us. But most of my friends are first generation, so voting isn’t something they’re often exposed to.”

“I don’t know what’s going on,” a Roosevelt High student said to Orea during his presentation. “What if I vote and make a bad decision?

This lack of exposure, citizenship issues, illiteracy and limited transportation are the primary barriers separating youth from the voting booths, Flores said.

Until groups like United Students and Vote18 came along, many youth said no one was really interested in what they had to say. Expectations were low for those in their late teens and early 20s.

While the 18-24 year old age group has the lowest percentage of voters, Orea, Flores, Townes and Ceglie say the number has increased every election, promising statistics they can’t ignore.

And while some tried hard to feign disinterest, by the end of the Garfield High workshop, several students’ heads did start to perk up. Perhaps it was the opportunity to exchange completed voter registration forms for raffle tickets, but more than a dozen forms were handed out, completed and retuned.

“This is why we try to talk student to student to get rid of that communication barrier, Orea explained. “A man in a suit talking down to them just won’t know how to connect, and students wouldn’t listen.”
“So instead, we do classroom presentations at the high schools and go door-to-door. So far, we’ve registered close to 1,000 people in this community of color.”

At the end of the Marshall High workshop, voter registration forms were distributed to every single student and the Vote18 presenters walked them through the form question-by-question.

“60 percent of students don’t go on to a 4-year college, so this is our last real chance to inform them about political issues at this last level of social cohesion,” Townes said.

In addition to these efforts, several other issues seem to be encouraging youth to become more involved.
“This is going to be a historical election,” Perez said. “This is a real chance for the first Black president to be elected. We should be able to take advantage of that and be a part of it, not just read about it in a history book later.”

“We aren’t just about hip-hop and rap,” Orea said. “We’re politically involved, too. My friends and I debate about issues so we learn more.”

The issue that seems to be at the center of these debates is education. Because most youth are still in school or seeking higher education, education resonates as an issue that directly affects them.
“There is not enough money in schools,” Orea said. “East L.A. high schools are overcrowded and there hasn’t been a new high school in 80 years, until recently.”

Health care, a precious commodity, Flores said, is also a topic at the forefront of discussion.

“Everyone should have health care,” she said. “One time, my friend was really sick, but she didn’t have health care. It was just devastating to see her suffering through the pain! No one should have to wait in line to check their health.”

Immigration laws, school budget cuts and global warming all were topics that received multiple mentions.
And the candidate whom these youth believe will be able to produce the most change regarding these issues is Barack Obama, the Democratic Presidential Candidate.

“Obama’s policies are really progressive,” said Perez. “Regarding education, he supports the Dream Act and he has a history of working with people of color.”

“The key is to ask people to get involved, and Barack Obama has asked them to get involved,” Townes explained. “The students seem absolutely excited. They feel like they can relate to him rather than to other candidates.”

Obama has personally reached out to youth, appearing on MTV, Roosevelt Junior Joel Lujan said, and even spoke at Garfield High School back in 2007, according to Orea. The presidential candidate’s message of “change” seems to be resonating within the youth voting block.

“I like his speech, ‘Yes, We Can,’” Roosevelt Junior Anabel Ortega added. “It’s really cool that even though his people came from slavery, they were able to overcome that and he actually is a candidate. It sets an example for minorities.”

More than just an example, many minority groups, particularly Hispanics, seem to be getting involved in the political process.

“Though Hispanics vote significantly less than some ethnic groups, there has been a drastic increase,” explained Fran Lapides, a League of Women Voters of Los Angeles representative. “Part of this comes from the L.A. mayor [Antonio Villaraigosa.] With a Latino in office, the citizens are empowered. They see that they’re part of this political process and they’ll become more engaged.”

“I have all the faith in the world in our youth when others underestimate them simply because they’re largely marginalized,” Ceglie said. “They’re more enlightened and open-minded than older voters who often have special interests in mind. The world will be better off as soon as control transitions into these students’ hands.”

Whether it’s the candidates, voter organizations, or media hype, the next generation of voters seems to be inspired.

“Young people have the most power,” said Georgina Martinez of Roosevelt High. “We are the future.”

Protecting the Vote

October 9, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Voter registration deadlines are just over a week away in many states. Polls open in just over a month. In an election that could well be decided by new voters, voter registration efforts are in overdrive. But signing people up might be the easy part: after that, there’s voting. As the last two elections have shown, just showing up at the polls isn’t a guarantee of a smooth ride to the ballot box.

In 2000 and 2004, all across the country, thousands of voters were removed from the rolls, without their knowledge, in official purges of voter lists. On Election Day in 2004, boxes of registrations remained unprocessed in at least two cities we know about — Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. On the radio that election night, I received calls from Columbus voters who had stood for hours in line because of a shortage of voting machines in the inner city, even as, in nearby wealthy suburbs, voters were able to cast their votes in a matter of minutes. As one caller put it, “Jim Crow isn’t dead.”

Election protection and voting rights should be central to any conversation about the ‘08 vote. But a lot of tough questions are getting lost in horse-race coverage. And many voters are wondering — again — if their vote will be counted. In contrast to most advanced democracies, the right to vote isn’t conveyed automatically with citizenship or coming of age in the United States. Voters have to prove themselves and there are no end to the challenges, from felon disenfranchisement laws to monolingual ballots and a myriad of ever-changing rules, which differ from election to election and district to district. Come voting day, voters rely on minimally-trained poll-workers overseeing a myriad of voting systems. Disturbing doubts remain about the security of electronic voting and the privately-owned technology many districts rely on to tally votes.

Fed up with waiting for officials or Parties to do the work, this year, as never before, citizens’ groups, and voting rights organizations are taking early action to protect the vote. A few months back, national voting rights groups charged officials in Kansas, Michigan and Louisiana of illegally purging voter lists. Voters whose homes are in foreclosure are also concerned that their status might be used at the precinct to challenge their right to vote. The states with the highest foreclosure rates, Ohio, Michigan, Florida and Colorado, are also swing states where the election could hinge on tiny margins. Meanwhile, in Michigan, the

ACLU has just filed a federal lawsuit against state electoral officials over statewide voter purge programs they claim would “disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Michigan voters” — many of them college students. Thanks to independent reporting and activist organizing, the Department of Veterans Affairs was recently forced to reverse its policy that would have stopped voter registration drives at hundreds of VA hospitals serving injured and homeless vets.

While the media focus on the candidates, voting rights advocates are focusing on the future of our democracy. It’s falling to nonprofit outfits like the Advancement Project to distribute state-specific “know the facts” palm cards to poll workers in many states. And organizers are fanning out. Twenty-three states allow early voting. Ohio has a “golden week” — September 30 to October 6 — in which people can register and vote all in the same day. The organizers recommend voting early. Avoid the lines and the worst of the chaos.

Will citizen activism decide an election? It just might.

Flanders is the host of GRITtv and “Live From Main Street,” a virtual town hall exploring how the issues of voting rights and election security affect every day Americans. For more a full schedule of events, visit www.livefrommainstreet.org.

Getting Out the Latino Vote

October 2, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

While the news may be filled with stories on the 2008 presidential race and there remains just a little over a month before votes will be tallied and a victor declared, there are still many who say they are not yet sure who will get their vote, or even if they should vote at all.

The fact that neither of the two main candidates, Sen. Barack Obama for the Democrats and Sen. John McCain for the Republicans have spent little time personally campaigning in California is no reason to not get involved, say surrogates working on their campaigns and others just interested in making sure Latinos get out and vote.

 After citizenship ceremonies in Los Angeles, bilingual help is available to register new Americans to vote. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

After citizenship ceremonies in Los Angeles, bilingual help is available to register new Americans to vote. (EGP Photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo)

The clock is running out for those trying to reach voters who, for one reason or another may be reluctant to cast their vote or to participate actively in the campaign. They still hope they can change some minds.
Not everyone understands the importance of their vote, or that it’s a right, say voting rights advocates.

“Everybody has the right to vote,” said Juan Garcia, a member of the non-profit Huntington Park based Padres del Sureste (Parents of the Southeast). “To begin, we must participate because a person who does not participate will not [have their views] taken into account.” If you want your view represented, you must vote, he says.

In the United States, any individual who is a legal citizen, a U.S. resident age 18 or older, who has not had their voting right revoked because of a felony conviction, is eligible to vote.

The presidential election is not the only matter of importance on the ballot, say get out the vote activists.

There are a number of very important ballot propositions that will impact residents in a variety of ways, including measures dealing with health, security, and education, legislative redistricting and gay marriage, and tax increases to name a few.

Newly sworn-in citizens, the bulk from Mexico and other Latin American countries, have added more than a million more voters to the voter rolls, but to make any kind of impact, they must actually vote.

A diverse group of organizations and independent groups in Los Angeles are working to encourage people to vote in the next election. They represent a variety of viewpoints and political affiliations, groups like the national Southwest Voter Registration and the local Padres del Sureste. Through citizenship workshops, radio programs, door-to-door precinct walking, leafleting and other activities, their goal is to ensure massive voter turnout on Nov. 4.

“One of the things that we are going to do now is to educate the community,” about the items on the ballot, said Ana Haney, another Padres del Sureste member. “A lot of people do not vote because the propositions on the ballots are not clearly explained. People do not understand them and, therefore, they do not vote,” she said.

Whereas many voters born in this country find it difficult to sift through the mounds of information and misinformation circulated by interested parties on both sides of the proposition debates and the presidential campaigns, it is that much harder for immigrants whose command of the English language may be more limited.

Some of those working hardest to reach them are not even eligible to vote, they are not yet American citizens, but they are deeply interested in the outcome of the election.

Their numbers are growing say organizers. Many say they have a huge stake in the election, whether it’s about immigration or education, their lives are here, their future is in the United States.

“I wish I could vote, but I’m not a citizen yet,” said Maria Gonzalez of East Los Angeles. “But my children are, and I have to fight for their future. If I could vote, I would. But I can’t, so instead I try to convince people who can vote not to waste it, to have a say,” she said passionately. “I am getting informed and I am telling others about the issues, I am trying to educate them.”

Gonzalez is not alone.

Increasingly people, who wish to participate but are unable to vote, are getting involved, either at the organizational level, or just as individuals like Gonzalez, who said she talks to the parents of her children’s friends, relatives and members of her church.

Being a citizen would give them the opportunity to exert their voice in the form of a vote, but in the meantime, they must find other ways to be represented.

Not being citizen, however, does not have to be an obstacle to supporting a presidential candidate, said Padres del Sureste member Esther Guzman. Even if you can’t vote, you can help raise awareness, she said.

“Although I do not vote, I gather all the voters in my family” and explain what’s at stake in the election, said Guzman. “I think that those who do not vote can get more voters,” to participate.
In some ways, we are more passionate about the election, we feel it deeper,” said Gonzalez. “When you don’t have the right, it’s not as easy to take it for granted, at least not for me,” she said.

Many Latinos believe that voting is the only way they will be heard. Many of those that EGP spoke to said they are motivated to vote especially if it means they can help influence issues that are important to those who cannot vote, members of their family, close friends or co-workers; issues such as immigration reform, college tuition, financial aid and health care.

“There are others who are not citizens but participate because they are Latinos,” said Garcia. “We cannot vote but we support all those who can vote by supporting ideas,” and by getting the word out about what’s at stake in this election, he said.

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