Get Out the Vote Early
By Dianne Anderson
Better late than never might apply to some things, but not to this year’s election.
Community advocates are stressing the importance of mailing back or walking in the vote directly to the Registrar of Voters almost as soon as the ballot comes through the mail.
At least for California, voting should not be a hassle. On September 29, all voters should be on the lookout to receive their pamphlets in the mail describing all the names on the ballot, and the propositions. Starting on October 5, watch out for the ballots.
Keith Willis, president of the 100 Black Men of the Inland Empire, said voter suppression may not happen as much in California as other states, but it happens.
His organization is calling on family members and friends via the boys that he serves through their local chapter to vote strong. They have also teamed up with Jack and Jill of America, Pomona area chapter, as well as chapters in Long Beach and Los Angeles, pushing the initiative from “the 100” world headquarters, called “Real Men Vote.”
“When we all vote, we’re looking at programming to reach out to the community to make sure that they know to register to vote, and they need to vote early,” said Willis.
Back in the old pre-pandemic days, people would stand in front of grocery stores to catch unregistered voters. These days, no one is out shopping like they used to.
With so much at stake, Willis said mailing in the ballot early, or walking it in early to the Registrar of Voters is critical.
Willis, also an attorney, said they are holding virtual voter engagement opportunities, and calling to partner with other organizations to help engage larger online townhall meetings. He wants the community to understand the voting process and the challenges they may face.
This year, the focus with the “the 100” is ensuring the right to vote by increasing registration of all those who are eligible.
“The Blue state in some ways voter suppression [tactics] may not be as obvious as some of the Red states where they shut down the polls with hundreds or thousands of people around the corner,” he said. “But we see increased [police] presence, that’s absolutely a form of voter suppression.
Betsy Starbuck, president of the San Bernardino League of Women Voters, expects mail-in ballots to be much higher this election. In June, Gov. Newsom mandated that counties send vote by mail ballots to all registered voters.
Because of recent concerns with the post office, LWV is advising people to vote as early as possible.
Starting October 5, the Registrar of Voters will host early voting sites across San Bernardino County. She said voters should recheck the county website to find out various locations.
“If you’re housebound, elderly or immunosuppressed, you don’t want to be out in the public, have [your relative or friend] take it to the Registrar of Voters. The county is going to have 105 polling places, that’s a lot fewer than normal,” she said.
LWV fought against voter suppression ever since Congress allowed the Voting Rights Act to sunset, which allows states more restrictive measures, and to reduce polling places. She applauds the recent Democratic call to expand the Voting Rights Act, and rename it the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.
“In some states, they have reduced the number of polling places. They have sited polling places primarily in white areas, making people of color having to walk further to vote,” she said.
One good thing is that California now allows counties to count ballots as they come in. In the past, she said voting machines would not turn on until Election night at 8:00 p.m. LWV has been advocating directly with the Registrar of Voters and the Board of Supervisors to make sure the election equipment and staffing are adequate the handle the surge that is expected this year.
“That should cut down some of the delays statewide, but the local Registrar of Voters has to have the staffing to do that,” she said.
Her other concern is that most voters pay attention to the top of the ticket, but she said the local impact can be found at the bottom of the ballot, such as city council, school board members, and propositions and measures.
She also wants local candidates to know they can post their bios at Voters Edge, a project of LWV, which many voters check for candidate information.
“The only thing that they can’t do on our website is bad-mouth their opponent. They can talk as much as they want about themselves,” she said.
In the weeks ahead, LWV is hosting public webinars for voters to get a better understanding of the ballot measures, which are often tough to decipher.
The emphasis is to get people to drop off their ballots, or mail it back very early.
“Don’t sit this one out, period,” she said.
For information on upcoming webinars and local candidates and issues, see LWV
For more information on how to vote, or to register to vote,
San Bernardino Registrar of Voters