Why We Must Vote

15 Aug Why We Must Vote

November Ballot Features Key Issues for South L.A.
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By Marqueece Harris-Dawson

Marqueece Harris-Dawson

Marqueece Harris-Dawson

The November election may be one of the most important in the nation’s history. The outcome could be as significant as President Kennedy’s victory in 1960, which created a political opening for the civil rights movement and the passage of key legislation affecting poor people and those of color. It may be as or more influential than the historic 2008 election, which resulted in the nation’s first African-American president, health care for many uninsured and a temporary halt to the deportations of young undocumented immigrants. All of those advances could be reversed at the polls this year.

We have reached another key crossroad. Issues that will be determined in November include who sits on the U.S. Supreme Court, the fate of Obamacare, immigration policy and the direction of the economy. Will we move toward a more inclusive, multiracial America, or one that will defend the interests of only the richest 1%?

Although many eyes around the world will be on the U.S. presidential election, we must also focus attention on the California ballot. This past year, the state has witnessed some tragic and tough realities.

Schools in our community have been devastated by draconian reductions in resources due to state budget cuts. Thousands of teachers have been laid off, summer schools closed, and academic support, such as counseling or tutoring, for our children slashed.

In the fall, we watched the unjust execution of Troy Davis by the state of Georgia, as the highest court in the land refused to consider new evidence that pointed toward his innocence. Davis, an African American, represents another example of racial disparity in America. This type of racism doesn’t happen just in the South. In California, African Americans make up less than 7% of the population, but 36% of the people on death row.

Racial inequity extends beyond the death penalty to throughout the criminal justice system. The three strikes law passed by California voters in 1994 has exacerbated the problem. African-American men, who constitute only about 3% of the state’s population, represent about 33% of California inmate second-strikers and 44% of third-strikers.

Nationally, corporations have developed more power over elections as they have been given unprecedented latitude to donate huge amounts of money to political action committees supporting specific candidates. This is happening as the ability of public sector unions to represent the interests of working families in the political process  are under attack.

As Californians, we have an opportunity to tilt each one of these issues in November. And for the first time in years, progressives are on the offensive.

Of particular importance on the state ballot are two initiatives that would reduce budget cuts; one that would eliminate the death penalty; one that would amend the three strikes law; and one that would hold food companies accountable for what they put in their products. There is also a deceptive proposition that would cripple workers and give more power to the 1%.

South Los Angeles voters must weigh in on these crucially important measures. Although many people may come to the polls only to re-elect President Obama, let’s make sure we all fill out our entire ballot, and in the process change the course of California for the better.

Marqueece Harris-Dawson is president and CEO of Community Coalition.

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