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Secretary of State, Weber, Att. Gen. Bonta Explain Your Voting Rights

Despite the devastating impacts of the global pandemic, nearly 17.8 million Californians were able to vote safely and securely in the 2020 General Election. That was the largest voter turnout in almost 70 years. 

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LOS ANGELES, CA, OCT 2020: hand with 2020 US presidential election voting form in return envelope, about to be deposited into an official ballot drop box in Downtown

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber and Attorney General Rob Bonta said they are laser-focused on ensuring that the state’s gubernatorial recall election on Sept. 14 is safe, fair, and accessible to every voter that visits a polling place or votes by mail.

As vote-by-mail ballots make their way to every active registered voter across the state, Weber and Bonta are asking Californians to review the “California Voter Bill of Rights,” learn more about the state’s voting protections and make a plan to cast their ballot.

Weber and Bonta spoke at a virtual news conference last week, livestreamed on the California Department of Justice website.

“It’s about helping voters make their voices heard,” Bonta said.

“California voters should know their rights. It’s an essential part of (keeping) our election safe and secure. If (voters) believe that they have been denied  any of these rights or are aware of any election fraud or misconduct, please let us know.”

County elections officials across the state are required to mail each registered voter a vote-by-mail ballot. Voters can return their ballots by mail or through other options made available by their county elections officials or go in-person to the polls.

Despite the devastating impacts of the global pandemic, nearly 17.8 million Californians were able to vote safely and securely in the 2020 General Election. That was the largest voter turnout in almost 70 years.

Registration numbers continue to rise to over 22 million.

“Democracy clearly matters to the people of California,” Weber said. “To ensure that the outcome of the upcoming recall election reflects the will of the people, Californians have my commitment and that of the Attorney General to protect the right of every eligible voter — regardless of party — to cast their ballot.”

Bonta said that every vote-by-mail ballot comes with a postage-paid envelope and, as long as it is postmarked by election day, Sept. 14, it is valid.

On election day, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) will be on call to provide additional assistance to the Secretary of State’s Office. The departments will work in tandem to enforce California’s election laws where needed through a team of attorneys and administrative staff across the state, Bonta said.

At the news conference, Weber spoke about Californians in county jails serving a misdemeanor sentence. She said a misdemeanor does not affect a person’s right to vote if they are awaiting trial, on parole, on probation, on mandatory supervision, on post-release community supervision, on federal supervised release. A person with a juvenile wardship adjudication is also eligible to vote.

But a person serving a state prison sentence in a county jail or state correctional facility is not allowed to register to vote or vote.

Once a person has finished serving their prison term, the right to vote is restored. However, the emancipated must register online or by filling out a paper voter registration card.

“We don’t have these laws that keep people on parole or probation or a felon from voting,” Weber said. “We’re saying that everyone has a right to vote other than those who are currently incarcerated in federal and state prisons.”

The California Voter Bill of Rights is available on the Secretary of State’s website in nearly 30 different languages, including English, Spanish, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, Khmer, Korean, Tagalog, Thai, and Vietnamese.

To download the California Voter Bill of Rights in your language, visit: www.sos.ca.gov/elections/voter-bill-rights.

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First in a Series on Jobs in Oakland. City Government; Please Do No (More) Harm

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

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High Quality stock aerial photos of downtown Oakland with Lake Merritt in the foreground.

Oakland city government declares war on the unemployed. An overstatement? Not really.

City administration professes concern for its residents who need help with access to jobs and training, while at the same time failing to issue contracts to the community organizations that stand ready to provide needed services.

The city council approved these contracts in June. As of late September, they have not been issued by the city administration.

Q: What does this mean? A: Non-profit organizations, operating on shoestring budgets in the best of times, have been required to advance their own funds in July, August, and September to serve the unemployed, with no reimbursement by the city because as the administration says, “Your contract has not been signed yet.”

Another impact: the workers who provide front line job services may not receive their paychecks on time…. creating unnecessary instability in their own households.

And who is responsible for issuing these contracts? Yup…it’s the city…. painfully tone deaf to the needs of the community, particularly those on the economic margins. Most of those served with job help are Black and Latinx residents who consistently suffer double digit unemployment. Many are returning home after incarceration.

And for this level of harmful disregard, the city receives  28 percent of scarce job training funds. Astonishing, since the city provides no direct services to job seekers.

As Oakland struggles with its horrific crime wave, it seems that attention would be paid to root causes, joblessness being paramount among them. Instead, the city administration seems intent on hobbling the very groups who stand ready to help. This happens year after year…. with no apparent consequences to an impenetrable bureaucracy.

Oakland, we can do  better than this.

We must.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

 

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Commentary

Let’s Talk Black Education; Governor Newsom Should Close the Vaccination Loophole for School Employees

It leaves the rest of us — including the students — without a teacher, cafeteria worker, or janitorial staff. We have to throw on five or six hats in order to ensure that our students are educated.

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Let's Talk Black Education with Margaret Fortune

The honeymoon is over in communities where the Delta variant has taken hold.

Since back-to-school, I’ve spent weeks filling in for principals, supervising children, checking children’s temperatures and providing them masks, directing traffic in the parking lot, picking up garbage, wiping down cafeteria tables — all of which are required to run safe schools in these times.

I’ve talked to other heads of schools that can say the same thing or something similar since the start of this school year. The same culprit continues to affect us all — COVID-19. However, normally we have a village to manage these tasks. Now, we don’t.

Staffing shortages are severe and there are no substitutes to be had.

Further aggravating the situation, are public health rules that require paid school staff who test negative for COVID-19 but remain unvaccinated to stay home for 10 days at a time when they are exposed to someone who tests positive.

It leaves the rest of us — including the students — without a teacher, cafeteria worker, or janitorial staff. We have to throw on five or six hats in order to ensure that our students are educated.

Necessary? Yes. Sustainable? No.

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a good first step when he required school employees to be vaccinated, but he left a gaping loophole. He allowed school staff to ‘test out’ of being vaccinated by committing to take a COVID test twice a week.  Then he put the burden on schools to become COVID testing centers overnight for the employees who refuse to get vaccinated.

The result is that these staff who refuse vaccination have to be benched for two weeks every time they get exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19. Imagine, if you will, being a part of a 40-person team and every week there are 10 people who are forced to quarantine for two weeks, leaving 30 team members to do the work of 40 during that first week.

That’s one person doing their job and the additional work of three coworkers. These types of staffing outages are debilitating schools across the state. There are news reports of schools having to shut down classrooms for lack of staff.

Some major school systems with the political clout have taken matters into their own hands. Los Angeles Unified, for example, has closed the loophole and is requiring all school employees to be vaccinated.  The state of California should do the same.

California has over 6 million students who can’t afford for us to agree to anything less than 100% vaccination for school employees.

Yes, the policy could force out educators who refuse to get vaccinated but, they won’t be working anyway if they get exposed to a positive case.  Essentially, the unvaccinated have become hard to employ in a school setting.  They can go out at any time and take down our schools with them.

We can’t risk that.

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Commentary

Pass the Freedom to Vote Act: Time Running Out to Protect Right to Vote in 2022 and Beyond

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”

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US Bill of Rights and Flag with spot lighting

Republican-controlled state legislatures have imposed new voting restrictions. They are getting ready to create more safe congressional seats for Republicans through abusive partisan redistricting. They are undermining faith in elections with false claims about election fraud and demands for fake “audits.”

The good news is that there is new momentum in Congress and a new bill to protect our democracy. We need to get it passed.

The new Freedom to Vote Act would protect the right to vote, end unfair partisan gerrymandering, and shine a light on the flood of dark money that allows billionaires to buy our elections in secret. It includes key sections of the earlier For the People Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives but was blocked in the Senate by Republican filibusters.

The Freedom to Vote act also addresses one of the worst things about some of the new voter suppression laws: provisions that give state officials the power to override voters and overturn election results.

There are other good things in the bill. It would make Election Day a federal holiday. Every state would have automatic voter registration, early voting and drop box accessibility. These would be major advances in making voting more accessible to everyone.

Voting rights advocates are rallying support for the Freedom to Vote Act. One of the sponsors, Democratic Sen. Joe Machin of West Virginia, worked hard to come up with a bill that he could support. He still hopes to get some Republican senators to join him.

That is an uphill battle. Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has signaled that no Republican senators will support this compromise. And he will use the Senate’s filibuster rules to prevent the Senate from passing election protections that are supported by huge majorities of the American people—something he has already done with the For the People Act.

Ideally, voting rights should be a nonpartisan issue. Congress repeatedly passed extensions of the Voting Rights Act that were signed by Republican presidents. But right-wing politicians and judges have spent years trying to undermine the Voting Rights Act in the name of “states’ rights” or “state sovereignty.”

With help from right-wing justices on the Supreme Court, states have imposed all kinds of new voting restrictions in recent years.

The number of new restrictive voting laws jumped massively after former President Donald Trump was defeated in last year’s presidential election. Grassroots organizing helped drive strong turnout among Black voters in key states, and Republicans have decided to respond by making it harder for people to register and vote.

That makes it clear that the new voter suppression rules have nothing to do with “election integrity” and everything to do with maintaining power at all costs.

The Constitution very clearly gives the federal government the right to step in when states undermine democracy with restrictive and discriminatory voting rules. That’s what Congress did more than 50 years ago when it passed the Voting Rights Act.

President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate must do whatever it takes to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. With democracy and voting rights at stake, we cannot let Jim Crow-era filibuster rules in the U.S. Senate have the final word.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way.

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