Democracy in action: Local reflection on the election

A week has gone by since the historic Nov. 6 and we should all reflect on the lessons learned in this election.

This election we saw a victory for democracy. Voters trusted grass-roots campaigns over the advertisements of billionaires. The new districts drawn by citizens rather than politicians created more fair elections. We saw youth, Latinos and the poor, the folks who were least expected to vote, turn out in numbers surpassing 2008.

And because of all this, we saw a turning point in California, where after decades of budget cuts to education, we finally began to reinvest in our future by passing Proposition 30.

Californians supported Proposition 30 because they know that education is vital to our state's long-term economic future. We've reached a turning point where voters are tired of the years of cuts to our children. Californians want to get us back on the path to being a state where every kid has the opportunity to succeed, no matter where they come from. They know we need real budget reforms to fix our never-ending cycles of crisis and cuts to schools.

Last week, Californians chose to invest in the future of our young people. I credit this victory to the fact that young people chose to invest in the future of California. These youth are especially inspiring because they couldn't vote themselves, but knew how much their education and opportunity was at stake.

Sixty volunteers from Hueneme High School, Santa Paula High School and Pacifica High School walked neighborhoods, talking to voters every weekend with my organization, Central Coast Alliance United for a Sustainable Economy (CAUSE).

Our youth volunteers alone in Oxnard, Santa Paula and Fillmore contacted over four thousand voters. We also registered over seven hundred new voters at Ventura and Oxnard Colleges, contributing to the record voter registration numbers in Ventura County this year.

The results show that money cannot buy elections because voters see through deceptive ads. Despite millions poured into the Proposition 38 campaign, it suffered a monumental defeat because California voters did their research and knew that Proposition 30 was the right solution to fix our budget mess and protect our schools.

Shadowy outside groups who spent millions trying to pass the deceptive Proposition 32 and endanger our schools by opposing Proposition 30 and are now being investigated for money laundering.

The fiercely competitive state legislative and congressional races, while a nightmare for many incumbent politicians, show that redistricting worked. This is the first statewide election where rather than elected officials drawing their own districts to maintain safe seats for themselves, a citizen's commission drew the lines.

Last year, CAUSE led a successful regional redistricting effort to ensure that the voices of the Central Coast's immigrant communities were not diluted by districts meant to suppress Latino voters. Now candidates have to work harder to reach out to the communities that are all too often ignored.

Latino communities were essential to the outcome. Latinos are a rapidly growing share of the electorate, especially here in the Central Coast, and candidates need to pay attention to issues like education and immigration reform that matter most to this key constituency.

You cannot simply give out tacos in the park and run Spanish-language ads anymore and expect Latino votes. Candidates must support comprehensive immigration reform and funding for our schools, so that families who worked hard to make it in America can give their children the opportunities they deserve.

CAUSE, along with our many community and labor ally organization are going to be vigilant in our efforts to hold all new elected officials, Republicans and Democrats, accountable on these and other issues important to Latinos and working families.

We demonstrated Nov. 6 that California's working families, young people and immigrant communities are stronger than billionaires and super PACs. Proposition 30 passed because the Californians most affected by the budget cuts voted for change. Voters have decided that the wealthy should pay their fair share and we can no longer balance the budget on the backs of our children by cutting education.

We've seen that when we talk to our neighbors about solutions, we inspire people to engage in our democracy. In the end, this election proved that democracy works, as long as we are willing to make it work.

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