Alisa Belinkoff Katz, associate director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that laid out California’s spotty history when it comes to free access to the ballot box. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the state systematically discriminated against groups including Chinese immigrants and the working poor, she wrote. By 1960, the state had veered away from tactics such as arduous registration requirements, literacy tests and voter roll purges and entered a more inclusive era. While California now offers early voting, vote by mail, internet registration, same-day registration, a “motor voter” program and other policies designed to encourage voting, “the California electorate remains older, whiter and wealthier than the population at large,” wrote Katz, lead author of a recent study on the evolution of voter access in the state. “Until our democracy gives voice to all segments of society, we still have work to do.”
Asian American and Latino voters in three key states — California, Virginia and Texas — had lower engagement in the 2020 primaries compared to four years before, according to a new analysis from the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative, or UCLA LPPI. The report analyzed precinct-level data from 10 states in the Democratic primary’s early nominating contests through March 17, when former Vice President Joe Biden became the presumptive nominee, to ascertain the candidate preference of Latino and Asian American voters. The report also found:
- Bernie Sanders did well with Latino voters in states like California, Iowa and Nevada where he had significant field operations and voter outreach.
- Sanders won at higher rates in the high-density minority precincts he carried compared to Joe Biden.
- Biden won the plurality of Latino votes in high-density Latino precincts in Virginia, Florida and some counties in Texas, demonstrating the malleability of the Latino vote, as well as the potential impact of voter outreach efforts at the local level.
- In Los Angeles County and Orange County, fewer Californians in high-density Latino precincts cast ballots than in 2016. As advocacy for vote-by-mail grows amid the COVID-19 pandemic, these results highlight a need for robust education and outreach efforts surrounding election procedures.
“The time is now for campaigns to maximize the potential of America’s diverse electorate, and that starts with the Latino and Asian American vote,” said Sonja Diaz, founding director at UCLA LPPI.
Texas voters will have access to vote-by-mail ballots during the global pandemic as a result of efforts by UCLA faculty member Chad Dunn, director of litigation for the Voting Rights Project. Dunn, an attorney, brought suit on behalf of the Democratic Party in Austin, Texas, seeking to clarify election law in the state regarding eligibility for a mail-in ballot. Texas is among just 17 states that require voters to provide an excuse to receive a mail-in ballot, one of the strictest absentee ballot policies in the country. The Texas effort was among several recent initiatives advocating wider access to vote-by-mail amid the COVID-19 pandemic that have been initiated by Dunn along with colleagues at UCLA affiliated with the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI). Representing Texas plaintiffs who fear contracting the novel coronavirus during in-person voting, Dunn successfully argued that social distancing or being confined at home falls under the disability exception for a mail-in ballot in Texas. A judge agreed, saying he will issue a temporary injunction allowing such voters to cast mail-in ballots in upcoming elections. “The right to vote is fundamental, and the judge’s ruling shows that public health must be at the forefront,” Dunn said after the hearing. “If the judge’s ruling holds, we will have ensured that all 16 million eligible Texans are able to safely vote in the July runoff elections and in November if they so choose.”
The UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI) and its marquee advocacy project, the UCLA Voting Rights Project, hosted an April 2 webinar on the importance of vote-by-mail programs in upcoming primaries and the November general election amid the coronavirus pandemic. Leading experts on voting rights joined the conversation, moderated by Sonja Diaz, LPPI’s founding executive director. With Election Day just months away, “it is not a matter of if, or a matter of when — the question is how do we provide the opportunity for people to vote because we must and we will,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. Stanford Law Professor Pamela Karlan added, “This is not the first time Americans have voted during a crisis.” Matt Barreto, LPPI and Voting Rights Project co-founder, emphasized the importance of outreach to communities of color, and Orange County Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley assured that “voters will adapt and are looking for opportunity and expanded access.” The Voting Rights Project has released a report outlining four steps that states can begin implementing now, as well as memos on a House bill to protect voting rights and on safe voting amid the pandemic. The publications address the equitable implementation of a vote-by-mail program to encourage voter participation. As Chad Dunn, director of litigation at the Voting Rights Project, said at the close of the webinar, “It’s on all of us to double our commitment to democracy and find a way to make this work in all 50 states and territories.” — Eliza Moreno
Voting officials should begin planning now to implement a national vote-by-mail program for the remaining primaries and the presidential general election in November, according to a new white paper from the UCLA Voting Rights Project, which is an advocacy project of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin. The paper [download here] represents an early call to action amid concern that the novel coronavirus will negatively impact election turnout. Congress is encouraged to provide funding and guidance for mail balloting as part of measures seeking to mitigate the economic and societal impacts of the current health crisis. “States around the country are pushing back primary and runoff elections in the hope that election procedures can return to normal at a later time,” said Chad Dunn, co-founder of the UCLA Voting Rights Project and co-author of the report. “But hope is not a plan. We must prepare now to protect the fundamental right to vote.” The white paper highlights a number of recommendations, including a universal online registration system, creation of a standardized mail ballot, and security measures to ensure ballot validity. Such measures would encourage widespread voter participation. “The 2020 election could have record turnout for young voters and communities of color, groups that must be engaged in deciding the future of our country and on issues that affect our local communities,” said Matt Barreto, UCLA Voting Rights co-founder and co-author of the paper. “Voting is the foundation of our democracy, and vote-by-mail offers a solution to challenges that range from busy work schedules to global pandemics.”—Eliza Moreno
Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, joined KCAL9 News as nationwide returns from Super Tuesday came in. The evening’s big surprise was the campaign comeback of former Vice President Joe Biden, said Yaroslavsky, a longtime public servant and political analyst. “This sudden change, this reversal of fortune at the presidential candidate level, is unprecedented,” he said, especially since the Biden campaign has been relatively low-budget. “As a politician, I used to dream of being able to win elections without spending a nickel. Biden did it nationally,” he said. But he cautioned, “Let’s not write off Bernie Sanders and consign him to the graveyard. Things, as we’ve seen in the last 72 hours, can change very quickly.” Yaroslavsky also said former President Barack Obama is wise to hold off on endorsing a candidate, as he may need to unite the Democratic Party in the event of a brokered convention. And he said Los Angeles County must overcome problems with its new balloting procedures before November. Otherwise, he said, “Democracy loses, because if people have to stand in line for two, three hours, it’s going to discourage people.”
As Super Tuesday drew to a close after 72 hours of campaign twists and turns, Public Policy students and faculty flocked to a watch party at the Luskin School for pizza and political talk. The contest for the Democratic presidential nomination as a two-man race came into focus as returns came in from across the country. In addition to weighing the merits of Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, students talked about state and local races and the new voting centers rolled out by Los Angeles County for the March 3 primary. Many in the room wore “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots at Ackerman Union. The crowd also included half a dozen international students who were fascinated by the political process unfolding before them. Professors Martin Gilens and Mark Peterson provided context and commentary as hosts of the event. They were joined by Associate Professor Wesley Yin and Visiting Professor Michael Dukakis, the former Massachusetts governor and 1988 Democratic nominee. Dukakis and his wife, Kitty, shared their own unique perspectives with students at the watch party.
View more photos on Flickr.
Jim Newton, public policy lecturer and editor of Blueprint magazine, spoke to Los Angeles magazine about George Papadopoulos’ congressional run in California. Papadopoulos, a former adviser to President Trump’s campaign, served 12 days in a federal correctional institution for making false statements during the special counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. He is currently running in the special election to represent California’s 25th congressional district. Running as a Republican, Papadopoulos hopes to get elected by relying on his Fox News fan base and his association with Trump, the article said. Hitching your star to Trump may work in some parts of the country but not in California, Newton warned. “An affiliation with Trump is just not enough to put you over the line. It may be enough to boost book sales and drive some name recognition,” but ultimately it is not enough to win a congressional seat, he said.
A group of lawmakers in Arizona are “breaking cycles of poverty,” Arizona Sen. Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete told fellow legislators attending a two-day workshop in mid-January at Arizona State University organized by the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative (LPPI).
Navarrete was one of eight lawmakers who participated in the sessions put together by LPPI in partnership with the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) and the Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research at Arizona State University. The workshops were a continuation of a leadership academy held at UCLA in August 2019.
The Arizona lawmakers are serving in what could be a battleground state during this presidential election year, and they are also marking 10 years since the passage of a controversial anti-immigrant bill in the state. The effects of the Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act, otherwise known as SB 1070, are still being felt in Arizona.
While keeping a focus on the state’s younger electorate, the lawmakers have started their 2020 legislative session with education at the forefront of their efforts.
Understanding children is the first step to creating evidence-based policies centered around their needs, according to workshop speaker Kelley Murphy, director of early childhood policy at Children’s Action Alliance. She reviewed statewide trends relating to Arizona’s youngest children and took a deep dive into data about access to quality care and education during early childhood.
Legislators also engaged in a meaningful conversation about Arizona’s emerging dual language learners and how to craft purposeful policy to advance student success.
They sought to better understand how young children learn. Viridiana Benitez, assistant professor of psychology at ASU, explained how language acquisition and cognitive development play a crucial role in the educational foundation and outcomes for young children.
Such an understanding is especially important to politicians in a state like Arizona, where the bilingual electorate is increasing and may be influential during 2020 elections.
Edward Vargas, a professor in the School of Transborder Studies at Arizona State, continued the conversation by focusing on polling trends and how such data provide information on public opinion and voters’ priorities. Lawmakers looked at the latest trends on the issues of early education, and they were encouraged to think of creative ways to further develop their ability to solicit effective constituent feedback through polls.
Legislators were asked to apply the information on childhood education by thinking through effective data collection and usage in order to reinforce efforts in education, keeping in mind messaging and voters’ priorities.
“What impacted me the most was the legislators’ desire to truly understand the data and use it effectively in order to make sound policies,” said María Morales, a second-year master of public policy student at UCLA and a fellow at LPPI. “It shocked me to know that it [typically] takes about 17 years for a researcher’s findings to be made public and reach the policy-creation-and-implementation table. It reinforced the need of cross-sectoral partnerships to develop sensible policies tackling the community’s priorities and needs.”
Michael Dukakis, 1988 Democratic presidential candidate and visiting professor of public policy, spoke to the Los Angeles Times about the Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee ruling and its profound effects on American politics. It has been 10 years since the momentous Supreme Court ruling that declared corporations had the same rights as people under the First Amendment and therefore were exempt from restrictions on political spending. Dukakis said the concept of a corporation having First Amendment rights is “outrageous.” Since the ruling, campaign finance has changed and Dukakis believes it does not align with what the Founding Fathers envisioned for the country. “The Founders who wrote the Constitution would be astonished,” he said. “The right has been peddling this idea for years, and it’s nonsense.”
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