Good Government Groups Press for Voter Education Funds in Budget
Monday, June 13, 2022
As California's state budget negotiations intensify, pro-democracy groups are asking lawmakers to put more money into voter outreach, to help increase voter turnout.
Advocates are asking for $85 million annually for three years. Veronica Carrizales, vice president of policy and external affairs at the nonprofit California Calls, said direct contact with voters from trusted sources who speak their language really pays off.
"By having regular conversations with everyday voters and reminding them to turn out to vote," said Carrizales, "we've seen an increase of anywhere from 5% to 15% of new and occasional voters, by keeping them civically engaged and by reaching out to them."
In recent years, California started mailing ballots to all registered voters, and 15 counties began using centralized voting centers instead of local precincts to increase access to early voting. In addition, people on parole after a felony conviction now have the right to vote.
But advocates say it's important to raise public awareness about expanded voting rights, especially among groups that are underrepresented in voter turnout - young people, and people of color.
Efrain Escobedo, vice president of public policy and community engagement at the California Community Foundation, said the legacy of past discrimination - from voter ID to language barriers - has depressed turnout in communities of color.
"While we have put good policies on the books, what we haven't done is engage those communities to make sure that they understand that the system works differently," said Escobedo, "that we are encouraging them to vote, that they should trust the process."
Studies show the changes produced high voter turnout in November 2020, especially among people already likely to vote. But they also led to a wider gap in turnout between wealthier, white voters and young voters and people of color.
The legislature has until June 15 to pass a budget.
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