By Leslie Katz
When asked to provide a piece on the importance of voting, the upcoming election generally, and why the Democratic County Central Committee (“DCCC”) matters, I immediately thought of a comment former Senator Bill Bradley recently made when talking about how to fix our democracy. To paraphrase, he said that a big way to fix it is for all people to actually vote. There is so much truth in such a simple phrase.
It is not just that “every vote counts”- they do. In fact, President Kennedy literally won by the equivalent of one vote per precinct.
Collectively, we can also help shape the direction of policy. So yes, when asked if your vote counts, it does, and not just for the specific election, but also to demonstrate who is watching the policymakers and what kinds of values and policies we wish to see reflected.
In terms of the Presidential race, look at what transpired in less than four years- repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a sitting U.S. President expressed support for same sex marriage, a national health care bill, and more. When thinking of why to vote in a Presidential race, it is obvious for all of the above, but also it’s the Supreme Court and the appointment of other Federal Judges where so many of our rights are eventually decided. In this upcoming election, more is at stake than most people realize. We know the presumptive nominees, but the numbers and enthusiasm demonstrated by voter turnout does and will make an impact.
Californians are voting on Proposition 29, a measure to increase taxes on cigarettes in order to fund cancer research, and on Proposition 28, which will have a major impact on policy making. It limits the number of years a member of the state legislature may serve, but allows him/her to serve more years in one body- either the Assembly or State Senate, so that our representatives can focus on their office, will gain greater experience, and won’t have to focus on the next step. I am not a fan of term limits as we lose important institutional memory and experienced leaders, rendering staff and lobbyists as the ones really in control, but this ballot measure is a step in the right direction.
One of the biggest changes this June is that we will be voting in an open primary. Rather than selecting the top candidate from each party, the top two vote recipients will face off in November. In San Francisco’s 19th Assembly District, it looks like two Democrats will face off in November. However, in some parts of the state, we may see some rather strange results. In Solano County, a traditionally solid Democratic district (11), we might see two Republicans (one of whom recently changed his party registration to run as an “Independent”) in November.
So many Democrats are running that none of them may end up in the top two.
Finally, the most local of races, elections for Democratic County Central Committee (“DCCC”), are on the ballot. These are elections for selection of members to be the official voice of the Democratic Party (similar elections are held for the Republican and Green parties). In San Francisco, these races are hotly contested. The DCCC takes the official position on candidates, propositions and resolutions, and sets up campaign headquarters to focus on voter education, registration and turnout. Those of us elected to the SF DCCC also become delegates to the California State Democratic Party where we take the official Democratic Party positions on State Candidates and ballot measures. We also get to provide input on the Party Platform under which all of the state Democratic candidates run.
This year’s DCCC race brings potential for a number of changes. We have several longtime members retiring, and a new crop of LGBT candidates seeking a seat (vote for up to 10 or 14 candidates per district). In November, we have Supervisors’ races that can be impacted by the Party endorsement. In Alameda, we have a chance to elect an open Lesbian to the Superior Court- Tara Flanagan- a dynamic and experienced candidate. She has received the Alameda DCCC’s endorsement.
So, to bring it home, your vote at every level does matter. We can and do help shape policy by impacting who does or doesn’t get elected. Those who think politicians are all the same, or your vote doesn’t matter, think again and reflect on how much we as a community have accomplished, and how we still have a ways to go. Please vote June 5- either at the polls or by voting absentee. As George Jean Nathan said, “Bad Officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.”
Leslie R. Katz is a former Member of the SF Board of Supervisors and a longtime member of the San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee. She has her own Government Affairs consulting practice and serves on the Port Commission. You can reach her at email@example.com.