Spooky season is here – however this year, the scares aren’t just about Halloween, but about the impending elections exposing the threats to our dignity, health, wellbeing, and democracy as a diverse society.
As a 25-year-old Southeast Asian woman, I’m so excited to participate in this important democratic process because my vote is my voice and I am not waiting until Election Day on Nov. 3 to show how I feel about this political climate. I’m voting early and voting down the ballot.
While the national focus is on who we elect as president, the congressional representatives, local leaders and propositions we vote for greatly impact on our daily lives. They can protect our rights and represent our values, or harm us and haunt our communities for generations if we don’t do our part in this election and vote.
This year in Southern California, Long Beach voters have the opportunity to pass Measure US which, like California Proposition 15, if passed, will hold corporations accountable to pay their fair share in taxes. A yes on US would place a 15-cent tax on local oil companies that would level up to the rate of neighboring cities like Signal Hill; voting yes on 15 would finally close commercial property tax loopholes for billion-dollar corporations like Disney and Chevron. Voting yes on 15 and Measure US ends corporate handouts and moves resources back into our communities.
Currently, Long Beach’s air pollution ranks one of the worst in the nation. Research from PolicyLink and the University of Southern California shows that low-income communities of color in Long Beach face higher pollution exposure index than whites (71 versus 66, respectively) because of living in close proximity to environmental hazards. If this pandemic has shown us that the health of one is connected to the health of all, then communities who face a higher risk for COVID-19 due to health barriers like environmental racism and climate change should have more support to weather these times. Revenue from Measure US will fund environmental solutions and climate resiliency programs, which is a step toward reducing barriers to public health.
Voting yes on Measure US responds to what Long Beach residents believe are budget priorities. Before the pandemic, reports from the U.S. Census Bureau showed nearly 7,000 students attending Long Beach Unified School District were homeless, and close to one-third of our city’s youth population under age 18 were already living in poverty. Results from a survey led by the Long Beach Invest in Youth Coalition showed overwhelming support in all nine districts to increase public funds for positive youth development. Eight out of 10 residents responded that the best way to make communities safer is to invest in community-based youth development programs. If passed, Measure US will support better outcomes for children and youth.
As a product of positive youth development, I know from experience that investing in young people is investing in the future of our communities. Youth programs, supplemental academic support, workforce development are pathways to transition into a healthy adulthood. Having access to these resources when I was a youth helped me overcome challenges and paved the path that I am on today. I became a leader through experiences like advocating for people to register and vote even before I was a registered voter.
A decade later, I’m giving back by mentoring youth who are not old enough to vote, but who show so much dedication and love to fight for social justice. Together we are building a progressive electorate that reflects the diversity of the Long Beach we know and can be proud of.
Despite being home to the largest Cambodian American community, only 37% of the Southeast Asians registered to vote in Long Beach actually turned out to vote in the November 2016 elections, according to California Calls and PICO California.
Overall, our combined Asian community in Long Beach, which is 13% of Long Beach’s population, makes up only 8% of the electorate. Similarly, the Latinx community, which is our largest racial representation in Long Beach at 42%, only represents about 27% of the electorate. And African-Americans, who make up 12% of Long Beach, only make up about 9% of the electorate.
So many of the people who need support and resources aren’t old enough or are not informed on how important it is to express what we need at the ballot box. This is our time to advocate for those who can’t vote and to stand in solidarity by voting. When election season is over, I want to be proud that our city and neighbors did their part to pass measures that support racial, gender and economic equity. Together, let’s vote yes on 15 and yes on US to ensure youth and families most impacted by environmental and systemic racism can recover and get the resources we need and deserve.
This piece originally appeared in Voicewaves Long Beach.