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Reforming Elections for Fair Representation

CAUSE Action Fund advocates for fair representation and accountability in local governments throughout the Central Coast region.  Despite widespread demographic shifts in recent generations, the politics of the Central Coast doesn't yet reflect the increasingly diverse electorate.  This is often due to structural barriers that minimize the voice of young, working-class, and immigrant voters like at-large and odd-year city council and school board elections.  CAUSE Action Fund and our partner organizations in the community have worked for years to advance more equitable voting rights policies like even-year elections and district-based elections.

For example Santa Maria, with a 75% Latino population, has long been dominated by a white-majority conservative city council that has consistently shown a lack of reprsentation of the whole community.   This came to a head in 2014 with the city council's approval of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facility in the city against the outcry of thousands of residents.  That decision led to a years-long effort to achieve district elections in Santa Maria, which was fiercely fought by city officials.

This year, three cities in our region are holding their first district elections, including Oxnard, Ventura, and Santa Maria.  That means each neighborhood will elect their own representative to City Hall, guaranteeing representation from throughout the city.  This will lead to a much stronger voice for underrepresented communities like South Oxnard, West Ventura, and West Santa Maria, working-class immigrant neighborhoods which have typically been outvoted by more affluent areas. 

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing and outdoorThis will allow more diverse candidates a level playing field to succeed.  For example, in the City of Ventura a third of the population is Latino, but a non-white candidate has never been elected in recent memory.  People of color have often being the highest vote-getters on the city's Westside, but the neighborhood has been unable to elect the representatives of its choice as it is outvoted by the rest of the city.

It will also change the way campaigns are won in our community.  Under at-large elections, candidates often seek the favor of wealthy interests and major donors to afford the high cost of running citywide advertisements, giving the powerful even more influence over local politics.  When candidates do campaign door-to-door, they do so in the wealthiest areas of the city with the highest predicted voter turnout, leaving many neighborhoods almost completely ignored, rarely seeing an elected official coming to their door to listen to their concerns.  Under district elections, grassroots candidates can win through door-to-door campaigning, winning votes through their level of support and involvement in the neighborhood rather than the influence of powerful interests and slick advertisements.

CAUSE Action Fund will be working hard to get out the vote in Southwest Santa Maria, South Oxnard, and West Ventura this November!

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