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Voting for the First Time: What First Time Voters Need to Know

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Damali Robertson

Voting can be confusing. Especially in California.

California has 13 propositions on the ballot in addition to multiple races and measures across the state.

If you’re a first-time voter – a 19-year-old Gen-Z-er or systems-impacted person-California’s propositions may feel more intimidating.

My daughter, a 19-year-old college student, is voting for the first time, as is Snoop Dogg, a 49-year-old, hip-hop legend, and systems-impacted person. Even with a 30-years age difference, they both care about racial, economic, and criminal justice issues.

California’s propositions will help inform many of these issues long after November 3. That’s why the Young Women’s Freedom Center (YWFC) created this voter guide with first-time voters in mind.
YWFC is a leadership and advocacy organization led by systems-involved young and adult women and transgender gender non-conforming (TGNC) people of color who have
grown up in poverty.

I read their guide cover to cover and think it is an essential voter education resource. Here are their recommendations on seven of the key racial, economic, and criminal
justice propositions you’ll find on the ballot:

Proposition 15: Prop. 15 would tax the top 10% of commercial property owners. This proposition targets big business. Businesses with less than $3 million in holdings would be exempt. Sixty percent of the taxes collected would go to local governments and 40% would go to schools. We need more money in schools! Big corporations can afford to pay a little more. YWFC says YES on 15! I agree.

Proposition 16: Prop. 16 would reauthorize affirmative action in California. This is important in college admissions and employment. When affirmative action was banned in 1996, diversity numbers plummeted in our schools and workplaces. YWFC says YES on 16! I agree.

Proposition 17: Prop. 17 would give people on parole the right to vote. There are over 57,000 people on parole in California – the majority of them are Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. They’ve served their time. Their rights need to be restored. YWFC says YES on 17! I agree.

Proposition 20: Prop. 20 would give prosecutors more power to hand out stiffer sentences and penalties for lower offenses and increase penalties for formerly incarcerated who violate the terms of their probation or parole. YWFC says NO on 20! I agree.

Proposition 21: Prop. 21 would expand rent control across the state. California needs this!  The proposition also includes “vacancy control,” which only allows landlords
to increase the rent by 15% once a tenant vacates. This helps keep prices down in a state where prices often seem to be out of control. YWFC says YES on 21! I agree.

Proposition 22: Prop. 22 rips protections from gig workers – i.e., Lyft and Uber drivers. A NO on Prop. 22 keeps gig workers classified as employees rather than independent contractors, giving them benefits like overtime, healthcare, and sick time. YWFC says NO on 22. I agree.

Proposition 25: Prop. 25 is complicated. It appears to be a solution to an age-old problem – cash bail. On the surface, it ends cash bail but the proposition would also give judges more power to hold someone before trial and it provides additional funding to law enforcement. YWFC says NO on 25. I am neutral. This one is a hard one to call.  Voting is always a personal decision. But, it never hurts to have a little help.

Especially if you’re a first-time voter.

Damali is the Deputy Director of Strategic Partnerships at Root & Rebound. She is a mission-driven nonprofit leader passionate about advancing positive social change, a restorative justice practitioner, and a poet.

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