With midterm elections right around the corner, it’s time to own your constitutional right and get out to vote. We all know we’ve got to vote, but the ballot issues can be a little confusing. Since we want you armed with the info you need to be a confident voter, we decided to reach out to our voting and activism expert, Kristina Mitchell.
This amazing doer has been a longtime advocate for the safety and justice of women and girls. In 2016, she worked with Hillary for America, then went on to work as an organizer for the Nevada State Democratic Party. She is a lead instructor for The Political Institute for Women’s - Girls in Politics Initiative, and recently started a master’s program at George Washington University in Political Management.
Kristina is happy to announce she just became a certified national trainer with Vote Run Lead, a non-profit dedicated to train more women to run for office, and plans on running for local office in 2020. In between breaking glass ceilings and being a goddamn women's rights superhero, Kristina was kind enough to get us amped to charge to the polls on November 6th. No excuses, people!
Okay, let’s get voting! But how? Where? I’m confused!
Kristina: How to vote is up to you. The good news is that we have choices if you’re organized enough to make them in advance. If getting to the polling location on the day seems difficult, then register to vote by mail. I think it’s best to vote in person or by mail if you are not actually absentee.
You can make sure that your vote is accurately registered by checking the Secretary of State’s website in your district.
You can register to vote in a number of places. The DMV, the post office, and online as well. Websites like vote.org, and register.rockthevote.com are great places to register. If there is a campaign office near you, they will have voter registration forms there as well, so you can pop in and fill one out. In California, your registration for the November 6, 2018 elections needs to be postmarked by October 22, 2018. Once you are registered, you’ll be sent your polling place information, but that can be found online as well. California voters can look up their registration status and polling place information at www.sos.ca.gov.
Couldn’t be easier. So where do I go to find out more information on the candidates platforms? What resources should we go to for reliable info on where they stand on important issues?
Kristina: Each candidate should have a website that will state (hopefully in great detail) their platforms. That will be the most reliable place to see what their ideas are and where they stand. If the candidate is an incumbent, you can check their previous voting record to see if their actions are in alignment with what your ideals are. You can go to www.senate.gov to view this information.
Ballot measures stump a lot of people in the voting booth. Help us make sense of them!
Kristina: California has a lot of ballot measures, and this can be intense. I recommend throwing a ballot initiative party, and assign each guest one measure to study and present. Crack open some wine, and learn these together. It’s imperative to study the language of the ballot measure, as some are designed to “trick” a voter, like vote “no” for gay marriage if you support it. Your research needs to be thorough to ensure that you are voting for what you actually want. Ballot measures are important because they shape the laws of our land. Things like equality, commerce, elections, law enforcement, taxes, etc. will be on ballot measures, so the outcome will greatly affect your community.
Ballot measure study group with wine and crackers? This is the new book club! So how do we make sure we’re getting unbiased information about the candidates and ballot measures?
Kristina: Once you’re registered to vote, you should be sent out a non-partisan voting guide from the Secretary of State. Be very careful with “voter guides” or “slates” that you get in the mail. Often times, they will be sent from a PAC that has a certain agenda. Your party should also send out an official endorsement mailer. Always look at the small print to see who’s behind the mailer. If there is a certain cause that you believe in or trust, like Planned Parenthood or a union, check with them to see who they’ve officially endorsed.
What can get involved with politics on a local level? If we find a candidate that really inspires us, how can we support them?
Kristina: Locally, go to city council meetings. You can check the agenda on their website, and if there is something in your community that you want to join the conversation on, that will be the place to do it. Also, get to know your council member. They represent you, so you should be able to communicate the needs of your community to them, and they’ll take it to the council.
If there is a candidate you want to support, they need two things: time and money. I know that it’s not popular that politicians need money to run a race, but think of it as an investment in your community. They have to hire a staff that will be working ridiculous hours (sometimes 17 hours a day 7 days a week) for very little money. Mail costs money, postage, printers, pens, TV air time, it all comes from donations. You can go to the campaign office and volunteer as well. Make phone calls and knock doors, or go register people to vote.
I hosted a fundraiser for a woman running for Congress in Minnesota here at my place in Pasadena. I had her Skype in and had a $50 suggested donation to her campaign on the invite. I also held a phone bank for Jon Ossoff when he was running in Georgia. I had friends come over, and we called the people in GA’s 6th district to inform them of Jon’s platform and encouraged them to vote. Candidates also need people in the field, knocking on doors. You can do this with a friend, and it can be really fun. Yes, it can be awful too, but the number one way to encourage someone to vote for a candidate is a one on one conversation.
What else do you think and informed voter should be aware of?
Kristina: My tips are start your information seeking process early. The more time you give yourself to be informed, the better. Also, talk with your friends and family about the policies in your community. Engage with campaigns and find out how to get others to vote. There is NO excuse not to vote.
Here’s a tip as well: No candidate is perfect. There is no “savior”. These are fallible humans just like you and I, so vote for the person whose values are closest to yours. I think we’ve had a lot of people protest by not voting because they don’t love the person, or don’t want to know the issues. Be informed, and remember the civic duty you have. If you don’t vote, you can’t complain. Your voice DOES matter, so let it be heard. Every time I vote, I think of the women that went before me who were unable to. I think of the people who have died trying to get the right to vote. It is a privilege to be able to vote and to live in a democracy, and I hope I never take that for granted.
A big thank you to Kristina for inspiring us with her tireless work. Keep an eye out for her in the 2020 elections! Take the time to learn about the candidates and issues on the ballot, and get to the polls on November 6th (polls open at 7am and close at 8pm). Your vote is your voice, and now is not the time to remain silent.