2012: Voting Matters
Who votes? Who doesn't? And most important, why does it matter?
We need your help to make sure that, come November, the answers to those questions are the best possible answers for all of us.
It matters who votes this fall. Please help us get our New Voices Are Rising voter registration interns out into the field to make sure that California's voters speak for all Californians.
New Voices students live in neighborhoods where there is overwhelming support for education, health care and the environment. Our interns may not be old enough to vote themselves, but they can register their friends and families. They can go door-to-door and register their neighbors. They can catch people on the way to work at the bus stop, or going into the grocery store. And their impact will snowball over time, as today's interns carry their commitment to voting forward over time.
We need to raise $10,000 for our fall voter registration drive. The money will help pay the costs of teaching our Who Votes? Who Doesn't? And Why Does it Matter? curriculum to a dozen East Bay high school classes. We'll reach hundreds of students, building a network of voter registration teams. We'll distribute a flyer on the ballot initiatives on how voting Yes or No will impact local communities. And we'll teach our interns how to get their new voters to the polls though targeted phone banks.
Every single voter we turn out this fall could make the difference as the people of California go up against the big money that will pour into the state. Philip Morris and RJ Reynolds spent $47 million to beat the June tobacco tax initiative. We'll see even more spent this fall trying to squash proposals to shift some of the tax burden from the working poor to wealthier Californians. It's going to be close. The tobacco tax initiative failed by just 30,000 votes.
Our Right To Be Heard
My mom was born in 1908 in the small Eastern European city of Lodz, not far from Warsaw, part of the Czar's increasingly unstable empire. Her parents had seen civil unrest flare into bloody pogroms - anti-Semitic riots and lynch mobs that left more than 100 Jews dead. The Czar's own agents were believed to be the instigators.
There was no way to hold anyone accountable. By 1908 political gatherings were banned; the Czar's police raided a party at my grandparents' apartment and hauled my grandmother off to jail. Three years later, my mother and her family boarded a ship for the U.S.
My mother taught me that government in the United States was different: it was government of the people, by the people and for the people. In this respect, my mother was fearless. She taught me our elected officials work for us - that we have the absolute, unassailable right to bring our concerns to them, to petition for redress of grievances.
When I was 16, my mom and I went to Washington DC to protest the Vietnam War. We put on our best clothes to show respect; we marched in the streets to show we were serious; and after the march we walked the halls of Congress and knocked on every single door of our state's Congressional delegation. We were polite; we were firm; we were persistent. We were constituents. They had to listen to us.
The Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment takes its name from my mom, Rose Ratner. And our New Voices Are Rising project is based on the principal that, for democracy to work, all of our young people need to share the conviction that my mother gave me - the conviction that they have a right to be heard. And that one of the most basic, direct ways to make their voices heard is to vote. If only 4% more of the registered voters in Alameda County alone had turned out and voted yes, we'd be taxing cigarettes to pay for cancer research today.
Who Votes and Who Doesn't?
In the June 2012 primary, only 30% of Alameda County's registered voters actually voted - with a similar anemic turnout was reported statewide. In our students' communities, eligible voters are even less likely to cast their ballot than the county and state averages suggests. Latinos represent a third of the California's population but only 17% of likely voters. Asians make up 14% of the population and 9% of likely voters. 44% of adult Californians are white and non-Hispanic, but 65% of frequent voters are white and non-Hispanic.
Why Does Voting Matter?
Different voting rates have big impacts for all of us. Communities that most appreciate the value of a vibrant, healthy government are most likely to be under-represented in the electorate. For example, a recent Pew Foundation poll found more African Americans and Latinos are concerned about climate change than Caucasians. Moreover, on Election Day, people of color and low-income people are more likely to vote for quality public education, consumer and environmental protection, and affordable health care. These are the communities that our students come from.
November 2012 Statewide Propositions
California voters will be deciding on more than 10 proposals this November. Some of the best would:
- Tax the state's highest income earners to pay for education and other programs
- Require labeling of genetically engineered foods
- Raise funds for green energy projects by taxing out-of-state businesses for the portion of their revenue they make in California
Frighteningly, another proposal would undercut a key counter-balance to corporate super-PAC money in the wake of Citizens United. It would:
- Force unions to get special permission to donate to political causes
Please support this work by making a donation so that our students are ready to register and mobilize voters. Help us build the leadership that will guide our democracy into the future. Rose taught me that my voice - and my vote - mattered. Your tax deductible donation helps build a cohort of committed young adults who understand - now and for the rest of their lives - why their votes matter, and how to make their voices heard.
Thank you for your generous support. For California's communities and the environment,
Jill Ratner, President and Co-Founder
Rose Foundation for Communities and the Environment
PS - Remember to vote in November! And, make sure that everyone in your family does too!