CalNonprofits Articles

By Nancy Berlin, CalNonprofits Project Director

While we may not have been at the forefront of the national election scene, Californians were asked to decide on an array of issues at the ballot box this week. Locally, communities took up everything from soda taxes and the minimum wage in the Bay Area, fracking in Santa Barbara, San Benito and Mendocino, and funds for parks in Los Angeles. 

At the state level, voters were asked to consider six measures.  Propositions 1 and 2 were put on the ballot by the state legislature, and both got a thumbs-up from voters. Proposition 1, a water system bond, passed with 67 percent of the vote. Proposition 2, which provides money for a "rainy day" fund, took 69 percent of the vote.

The remaining 4 measures were placed on the ballot by petition signatures, and only one was approved by voters, Proposition 47. This will change sentencing for low-level nonviolent crimes such as simple drug possession and petty theft from felonies to misdemeanors, and re-direct the hundreds of millions of dollars that the secretary of state's office estimates would have been spent annually to house prison inmates to education, mental health and drug treatment programs, and victims assistance.  CalNonprofits was in support of this measure.

“The passage of Prop. 47 means thousands of people will get a second chance to rebuild their lives. It means people will have access to treatment and services if they are struggling with an addiction. It means that we will invest in educating our youth,” declared Marqueece Harris-Dawson, President & CEO, Community Coalition.

Community organizations have already started organizing to ensure that the savings get re-invested into community rehabilitation and prevention programs. You can see Californians United for a Responsible Budget's call to action here: http://curbprisonspending.org/

Proposition 45, which sought to require more regulation of health insurance rates, did not garner enough votes to pass.  CalNonprofits chose to state neutral on Proposition 45.

The sobering news for the nonprofit sector was voter turnout. Statewide, only 29.9% of registered voters cast a ballot in this election, a historic low.  Some of this can be blamed on a less-than-riveting election (no big Governor or Senate race, for example, as in other states).  Others point to the electorate’s collective malaise with big money in politics and distrust of politicians. 

As a sector, we need to take more seriously our role in promoting civic engagement.  We are trusted by the public, unlike most elected officials, and we are accountable to our communities and our members, not political parties.  Now is the time to start thinking and planning:  how can we educate our constituents on the issues we care about?  How can we help younger and newer voters feel more at ease with the voting process?  Are we ready to step up to the challenges brought on by the changing demographics of our electorate, and the ever-shifting landscape of how we communicate? More to come.

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