Exercise your power. Vote.
The Oakland REACH exists to make the powerless parent powerful. It’s hard to think of a simpler, clearer way to exercise that power than to vote. And there are some elections here in Oakland where your voice will matter a lot.
Unfortunately, too often, too many of us come up with excuses not to exercise that power — a right our parents and grandparents bled and died for. It is a scandal that while nonwhite students make up 88 percent of district schools, only about half of likely voters are people of color. It is one of the reasons people in power feel free to make decisions that damage our communities — because we don’t exercise our voting power.
So below we’ll walk through some of the most common excuses we hear — and the information you need to make your voice heard.
Excuse #1: “But it’s too late to register to vote. And I don’t know where to do it.”
This year, because of coronavirus, mail ballots have been sent to every voter in California who is already registered. If you’ve got yours, you can put your ballot in the regular mail (no postage required; must be postmarked by Nov. 3) or drop it at a special drop box by 8 pm on Nov. 3. Do it as early as you can — there are more than a dozen 24-hour drop boxes in Oakland. Don’t forget to sign the envelope! Not registered yet? It’s not too late. You can still register in person right up until election day, or even on election day (Nov. 3, 2020) and your vote will still be counted. Not sure whether you’re registered? You can check your voter registration online. Want reminders? Sign up here. Need help? Check out this Q&A or call the Alameda County Registrar of Voters at (510) 267-8683 or the Secretary of State’s Voter Hotline at (800) 345-VOTE(8683).
Excuse #2: “But my vote doesn’t matter.”
This year, there are four school board seats up for election. In 2016, the last time those seats were on the ballot, the margin of victory for one seat was 268 votes. Another was 986 votes. Every vote counts. Your choices, on school board seats and on school-related measures, will decide who makes decisions in our schools, and how much money our schools will have.
Excuse #3: “But it’s complicated to figure out who and what to vote for.”
It’s not complicated, but you will need to do a little research. Here’s how to get info about some school-related decisions on the ballot:
- School board and local measures: Four seats are up for election, including in West Oakland, the Fruitvale, and deep East Oakland. There’s a bond issue, OUSD Measure Y, to repair school buildings. And Oakland Measure QQ would lower the voting age to 16, just for future school board elections. If you’re already registered, you should have received a sample ballot that lists everything you can vote for, but if you don’t have that, you can see what’s on your ballot through the county website by entering your information and following the links (choose the “Election” tab and click on the Voter Information Guide). You can also read the candidates’ statements and arguments for and against Measures Y and QQ in this summary of the Oakland ballot. Want to learn more? See the candidates speak at a recent forum. There are videos for District 1 (North Oakland), District 5 (Fruitvale), and District 7 (deep East Oakland).
- Statewide measures: These are decisions that affect the whole state. There are some really important questions about affirmative action (including in schools) and school funding. One great explainer is here.
It’s not too complicated. It’s not too late. It matters. It’s how you exercise your power. If it weren’t important, white supremacists wouldn’t be trying to figure out how to keep you from doing it.
So go vote. And then make it a habit.