Progressive forum: Why vote?
Educating the community on ballot issues
October 26, 2016
Eighteen progressive South Bay organizations came together at De Anza College’s campus to inform over eighty voters of the propositions and measures on the upcoming ballot.
Attendees ate pizza and ice cream while organizer and student Pedro Alberto, 24, philosophy major, introduced the speakers and the ultimate goal of empowering the voters through nonpartisan education.
The ballot this year involves seventeen propositions at the state level that directly affect community in many ways. Each speaker presented a summary of the proposition, arguments for either side and what groups were in support and against.
The agenda gave the floor to each topic for five minutes. Speakers included members of the Green Party of Santa Clara County, the San Jose Peace and Justice Center, theCoalition for Justice and Accountability, DeAnza College’s Office of Equity and many others.
Audience members were given time to ask questions after each presentation, as well as a designated period for comments and questions halfway through and at the end of all presentations.
The speaker on Death Penalty was absent.
After the informational session, Alberto announced that speakers would be available during breakout sessions for small group discussion. The categories were Prop. 62 and 66 on the Death Penalty, Prop. 57 on criminal justice and youth, Prop. 64 on marijuana legalization, Prop. 52 and 61 on health and Measure B on country transportation.
After 30 minutes, the speakers reported back on each of the topics and the discussion that had occurred during the breakout sessions.
“A lot of people did not agree and there were some tensions and questions and controversial topics but that’s exactly what we wanted. We didn’t want everybody to agree on everything … discussion that weeds out bad ideas and leads up to good ideas is necessary,” Alberto said.
Matt Bolin, 23, psychology major, originally came to the event because his political science class required hours of civic engagement but found that the issues affected his life.
He cited Measure B as an issue he was on the fence about as someone who used his bike as transportation.
“I get to hear the different sides of really key issues and they’re affecting the local area right here,” Bolin said.
Cynthia Kaufman, director of the Vasconcellos Institute for Democracy in Action, said it’s really important for people to come and learn about the ballot initiatives.
“Sometimes people don’t vote because they’re overwhelmed by how many initiatives there are,” said Kaufman. “So just to help explain who’s funding them, who’s for them, who’s against them, it’s just a simple way for people to understand how to vote.”
VIDA was part of the coalition of organizations that hosted the event. It paid for the food and several of its students presented on propositions.
Sara Elzeiny, 18, computer science major, works in the VIDA office and saw the flyer posted online. She felt the event was an opportunity to reach a larger audience to talk about Prop. 55.
Elzeiny said her goal in speaking was educating voters on Prop. 55 and encouraging them to vote yes.
“[The ballots] are really kind of designed to confuse you so you don’t know which way to act or what’s in your best interests,” said Elzeiny. Having a forum and discussion about different propositions gives voters a chance to formulate their own opinions, she said, to see what other people think and not get confused by the language that’s on the ballot.
Kaufman said another exciting part of the event is building community with a lot of organizations that work in the South Bay.
Some people hope to form an alliance where organizations could work together to build a better world or even run candidates.
VIDA cannot run candidates. Alberto said he had hoped more students would come in, to let them know that they have to start paying attention to what’s going on, citing that locally voters have more power.
“People really hunger for change, [but] we’re not taking action on it.
When you say this is the answer, to vote, a lot of people don’t believe that,” said Alberto.
“But, I think it’s important: How it affects your life. You have to do more. You have to be really involved, you have to care, you have to transform your own life to be able to change in the world because at this point we see that
if we don’t do anything quickly it’s going to be really, really bad for our children.”
“We might have our own aspirations in the world … but that’s not going to matter if we’re not going to make it. It’s a very grim future to look forward to so we have to start acting now,” said Alberto.