Please note: Today is the last day to register to vote in California. You can do so online right here.
In 1994, I became a voting citizen of the United States for the first time. I was a freshman in college and had registered in Massachusetts, where I was attending school, rather than my home state of Illinois in order to vote for the late Senator Ted Kennedy. I even went to a rally where President Bill Clinton was stumping for him. Senator Kennedy retained his seat. However, across the country a major shift took place as the Republicans regained the House and the Senate.
Despite that development, I remember though that it felt good to vote for a winner. Voting felt like a rite of passage- exciting and inspiring.
Four years later, I moved to California and become a voter of my new chosen home. Suddenly, I was introduced to the world of Ballot Measures. I remember feeling overwhelmed in trying to sort through a list that included measures on animal rights, taxes, government administration, the budget and tribal casinos.
With each election, it was the same. An endless laundry list of issues both big and small. I started to learn how much money it took to get something on the ballot. And I watched as well-funded proposition campaigns dominated the air-waves, no matter if their contents were fact or fiction.
And I started to experience how it felt to lose. Prop 21 (2000) attacked and criminalized youth. Proposition 8 (2008) took away marriage equality in California and came to stand for the state and societal endorsement of homophobia. Bills that would shift our dirty energy dependence failed. Sometimes, after an election, I would wonder why I even bothered to vote at all.
But that’s exactly what the big companies and right-wing forces that play the ballot measure game want me to think. Too many of us who feel disempowered by the ins and outs of day-to-day life can give up on the importance of voting. But there is just no excuse for not voting. If we don’t bother to show up, we can’t really complain about the outcomes later.
Yes the endless ballot initiatives can be overwhelming and frustrating. But luckily, I have the Ella Baker Center Voter Guide to lead my way. Please share it with the Californians in your life.
By late morning on November 2nd, 2010, I pledge that I’ll be wearing my “I Voted” sticker. How about you?