By Carmela Castellano, President and CEO of the California Primary Care Association
I grew up with a strong sense of social justice and civic duty. As a young Latina, I knew that I would stand up for my rights my entire life. I wasn’t going to sit around and wait for someone else to fight for me.
My mom set a great example. As Executive Secretary at San Jose City College, she knew the decisions of the board of trustees had a great impact on the college’s employees, its students, and the community. She couldn’t afford to make big campaign contributions like some, but she walked precincts, made phone calls and put her energy behind the candidates she supported. Seeing my mom involved in the political process from an early age is one of the reasons I am such a passionate advocate today. Like my mom, I fight for the causes I support.
One of them is my concern for the people who want to vote but can’t. All across the country there are processes that are causing the exclusion of voters —particularly Black and Latino voters—, such as the absurdly strict voter identification laws adopted in some states. These laws are a stain on our democratic process and an unfortunate violation of people’s civil rights.
Thankfully, California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla has taken significant steps to make the voting process easier and more welcoming to all Californians:
- He has championed a new online voter registration process. You can visit registertovote.ca.gov to register, and complete the process in a couple of minutes. All you need are the last four digits of your social security number and your driver’s license number. You can also go to LCF’s site: www.latinos-vote.com
- He has supported a new vote-by-mail law. Your mail-in-vote will now be counted if it’s post-marked on or before Election Day. In past elections mail-in ballots had a different deadline, resulting in tens of thousands of ballots being thrown out. Now, everyone has the same deadline to vote — Election Day.
- He has sponsored the new Motor Voter law. This progressive law —only the second of its kind in the country— will register to vote every eligible California citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) office to get a driver’s license or renew one. In its first year of operation, experts’ forecast that the new Motor Voter law will add two million new voters to the election rolls. Many will come from low-income families who are young and Latino.
Secretary Padilla has shown tremendous leadership by advancing the voting rights of millions of Californians, especially those who are most likely to be marginalized by the process.
Another cause I’m passionate about is the effort that my own constituency —community health centers — is making in getting their communities registered to vote. Health centers already follow federal requirements to offer voter registration when enrolling patients into the Medi-Cal and Covered California Programs. Additionally — in partnership with Community Health Vote and NonProfit Vote—, CaliforniaHealth+ Advocates launched a campaign on September 27, National Voter Registration Day, which runs through the last day to register before the general election, October 24. Through this campaign we hope to register thousands of voters who will advance the issues important to our communities.
Health centers are uniquely positioned to support efforts to increase voter registration and voter turnout, because they are familiar and trusted sources of care in their communities, which also provide additional supportive services, education, and outreach to their patients —often in a language other than English.
These are all exciting innovations that empower disenfranchised communities like those I have dedicated my life to serving. Unlike other states, California is breaking down barriers to voting so that everyone has the opportunity to have their voice heard. Like my mom, we have to stand up and do our part to advance the causes of justice that are so important to our community.
We have to engage — we have to fight — we have to vote!
It is our civic duty.
To follow Carmela Castellano’s work – Carmelacastellano.com
If you aren’t registered, please do it before the October 24th deadline. It takes 2 minutes and you can do it here: www.latinos-vote.com