My Ballot ‘Tis of Thee

If you’re on social media, you may be worried right now about being turned away at the polls, or your vote-by-mail ballot being rejected, or ending up at a place that won’t let you vote. We’re hoping California doesn’t have those horror stories … but we’ve got some tips to help you avoid even getting into those situations. And the best news is, many of these are things you can do NOW, before the November 6 Election Day!

Provisional Ballot: a last resort

Lots of people are giving advice on social media about how to demand a provisional ballot: “Give me a provisional ballot with a receipt as required by law when requested.” It’s true that in California and most other states poll workers must give you a provisional ballot and receipt if you believe you’re entitled to vote, but for a variety of reasons the workers believe you are not. It’s also true that this is a last resort, that many of the reasons a poll worker may try to turn you away can be addressed, and that some issues can even be taken care of NOW, before Election Day, to prevent most problems.

  • Are you registered to vote? Is all your info correct? Check NOW!
  • Check your polling place NOW! Make sure you go to the right place to vote – if you’re at the wrong polling place, your name won’t be on the voter list. If you do end up at the wrong place, before you ask for a provisional ballot, ask where your correct polling place is. Go vote there if you can make it before the polls close so you can vote on all your local measures. If you can’t figure it out or can’t get there, then ask for a provisional ballot and receipt.
  • Did you get a vote by mail ballot in the mail, but you didn’t mail it in? You can drop it off at your polling place on Election Day. You decided you want to vote at the polls instead? You should be able to do that if you bring your vote by mail ballot and envelope: they’ll probably ask you to surrender the vote by mail ballot and give you a new one. Don’t have your ballot with you? That’s when you ask for a provisional ballot.
  • Worried you’ll be told you don’t have the right ID to vote? You usually won’t be asked to show ID, although you might be if it’s your first time voting in a federal election in California. And it’s a good idea to bring ID with you anyway. Here’s more info; here’s the complete list for first-time voters; or you can call the Secretary of State’s toll-free voter hotline at 800-345-VOTE (8683).

Here is the CA Secretary of State’s excellent official resource on provisional voting; and here’s a excellent article on what to do if you’re turned away at the polls.

Finally, if your last-resort requests for a provisional ballot and receipt are denied, report this or other incidents to the Election Protection hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE.

Conditional Voting

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations, up through Election Day.  Conditional voting is different from provisional voting, since provisional voting is for people who believe they are registered but are having problems.

Vote-by-mail ballots not secretly rejected

Worried because you’ve heard that in some states, untrained people are rejecting vote by mail ballots because the signature on the envelope doesn’t match the one on file? No fear – that won’t happen in California. By law, you must be notified and given the chance to correct or acknowledge your ballot signature if there is any discrepancy. (And in Alameda County at least, they don’t use untrained people, they have trained folks whose specific job this is – we were told that if there’s something distinctive about your signature that’s common between the two samples, they won’t reject the ballot.)

Skip the lines, vote early

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site. Why vote early? You beat the crowds, you don’t have to deal with harried poll workers or people who showed up at the wrong place or didn’t fix their registration and there’s no time to fix the problem … and if you need info, you can probably get through to your county elections office!

Follow up: check your ballot status

In California, you can check the status of your ballots. You can find out whether your provisional ballot was counted, and the reason why, if it was not. And if you voted by mail you can find out whether the ballot arrived at your county’s election office, whether the ballot was counted, and, if not, the reason why.

Read our recent article with more great info about voting in the mid-term election here.

Vote early, Vote often (every election, that is!)

Action deadline: Time’s nearly up! California election dates you need to know:

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Check with your county for deadlines, locations, and specific guidelines — generally you can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site.

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations up through Election Day.

Voter registration 101: 

  • Are you eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find a paper application at lots of places, including:
    • county elections offices
    • the DMV
    • government offices
    • post offices
    • public libraries
  • Do you want to register online? If so, you’ll need:
    • your California driver license or I.D. card number,
    • the last four digits of your social security number, and
    • your date of birth.

    Your info will be provided to CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. Don’t have one of those I.D.s, or have other questions? See more at the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.

  • Is your registration accurate? Check! Many voter registrations have errors – check yours. If you registered recently at the DMV, many of those were botched, so CHECK!
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, please re-register. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
Learn more:
  • California voter hotlines: the Secretary of State’s office provides voting-related materials and assistance in ten languages. Call one of the toll-free hotlines for answers to your questions about voting and elections, or to request mail delivery of a voter registration form, vote-by-mail application, or the Official Voter Information Guide.
  • Read our earlier article, with information about your county’s election processes, pre-registering 16- and 17-year olds, voting for previously incarcerated people, and much more
  • See Vote.org’s California Election Center. Sign up for election reminders.
  • See the Voter’s Edge guide (a partnership of the League of Women Voters of California Education Fund’s Smart Voter and MapLight. It includes in-depth info about what’s on your ballot, and much more.

Send this info to your family and friends in states other than California:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (it requires you to provide an email address).
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote

Want to do more?

June 5 Primary – Vote Now, Vote Then, Just Vote!

California’s June 5 Primary Election is fast approaching, with plenty of important races and initiatives on the ballot. Use your precious right to vote!

Early voting has started in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. You can vote early in person, or by filling out a ballot and dropping it off at a designated site.

Did you forget to register to vote, or did you move and forget to re-register? Little-known fact: you can still register and vote conditionally at your county elections office, or at certain other locations right up through Election Day on Tuesday June 5.

Did you know that some elections can – and will – be decided at the primary? In races such as for District Attorney, if a candidate receives a majority of the votes, they win and there will not be a runoff in November. Just another reason it’s important to vote in this (and every!) election.

 Learn more:

Send this info to your family and friends in states other than California:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote

Vote ‘No Confidence’ to Oppose Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston

Indivisible East Bay and the IEB CA-11 Team are urging voters to write in “No Confidence” in the June 5, 2018 primary race for Contra Costa County Sheriff. We join the “no confidence” movement against the incumbent, Sheriff David Livingston, who is running unopposed because progressive organizations were unable to locate someone qualified to run against him (California law requires that the candidate be in law enforcement).

Why spend time mobilizing a write-in campaign opposing Livingston when he’s sure to be re-elected? Groups working on immigration and racial, social and criminal justice issues — including Together We Will Contra Costa, the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and El Cerrito Progressives — are using the write-in effort to educate people about the sheriff’s shameful history. The California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance is also actively mobilizing against Livingston and several other horrendous California sheriff candidates.

By spreading the word, organizers hope that more people won’t automatically vote for Livingston just because he’s the only candidate. A vote count that’s significantly lower than in his prior two elections can serve to alert him, and the county, that many disapprove of his actions. Groups are also using the campaign to build support for a recall election.

Learn more about Livingston in our prior articles. To give you a taste, here are some high[low]lights. Livingston:

If you’re registered to vote in Contra Costa County, on your June 5 primary election ballot, below the box for David Livingston for Sheriff where it says ‘Write-in’ — fill in the bubble to the left and write ‘NO CONFIDENCE’ on the line. 

Sheriff Livingston no confidence write-in vote

What else can you do?

  • May 23 and 30, 6-7:30 PM: talk to voters and pass out “No Confidence in CoCo Sheriff Livingston’ flyers with IEB and CA-11 Team members, and others, at El Cerrito Off the Grid. Info here.
  • The Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance asks people to call the Sheriff’s office at (925) 335-1500 to push them to stop publicizing the names and release dates of people getting out of jail.
  • The Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition’s Sheriff Work Group suggests contacting California Attorney General Becerra about his investigation of the West County Detention Facility and other California jails with ICE contracts. Here’s background information, contact numbers, and a sample script for telephone calls or letters.
  • Sign California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance’s petition demanding that Sheriff Livingston stop violating SB 54 (the California sanctuary law) by publicly releasing the private information of immigrant inmates, including their release dates, and by allowing deputies to arrest, detain, or investigate people for violations of civil or criminal immigration laws.
  • If you’re an Alameda County resident – or know any – check out Indivisible Berkeley’s similar effort targeting the Alameda County Sheriff: “Vote No Confidence in Sheriff Ahern.”

Know Your Sheriff scorecard, graphic by California Immigrant Youth Justice Alliance
Ballot photo © Heidi Rand

 

Register and Vote as if your life depends on it

Are you eligible to vote? Don’t squander that precious right — make sure you’re registered, and make sure your registration is accurate! The deadline to register for California’s June 5, 2018 primary is May 21, 2018.

Go through these questions right now to make sure your voice is heard and counted:

  • Are you eligible to vote, but not registered? Pick up a paper application, fill it out and put it in the mail – no postage required! You can find a paper application at lots of places, including:
    • county elections offices
    • the DMV
    • government offices
    • post offices
    • public libraries
  • Do you want to register online? If so, you’ll need:
    • your California driver license or I.D. card number,
    • the last four digits of your social security number, and
    • your date of birth.

    Your info will be provided to CA Department of Motor Vehicles to retrieve a copy of your DMV signature. Don’t have one of those I.D.s, or have other questions? See more at the CA Secretary of State’s Election Division FAQ or contact them at 800-345-VOTE (8683) or by email.

  • Is your registration accurate? Have you checked? Many voter registrations have errors – check yours.
  • Do you need to re-register? Check here, and if you need to, please re-register. These are some (not all) of the reasons you must re-register to vote:
    • you moved since you last registered
    • you legally changed your name since you last registered
    • you want to change your political party
  • Do you know any 16- or 17-year olds? They may be eligible to pre-register if they’ll be 18 by the time of the election. Check their eligibility and help them pre-register (either online or using the paper form) so they can vote once they turn 18.
  • Do you have a criminal record, or have you been incarcerated? You may still be able to vote! In California, you can vote if you’re not currently in state or federal prison, or on parole for the conviction of a felony.  Once you’re done with parole your right to vote is restored, but you must re-register.
  • Finally: ask everyone you know the above questions, and help them out if they need it.

Important dates and other info:

  • Register to vote by Monday, May 21, 2018
  • Statewide Direct Primary Election Day is June 5, 2018

Early Voting and other ways to vote:

  • Alameda County: the website tells you about early voting, voting by mail, dropping off your ballot, and more
  • Contra Costa County: early voting sites will be open Tuesday, May 29 through Friday, June 1 from 11 am to 7 pm, and Saturday, June 2 from 8 am to 5 pm

Learn more, and help register and pre-register voters!

Send this info to your family and friends in states other than California:

  • Vote.org offers lots of information, and it’s easy to remember (note that it requires you to provide an email address)
  • Indivisible has partnered with TurboVote to help you sign up to get election reminders, register to vote, apply for your absentee ballot, and more
  • The National Association of Secretaries of States’ website helps eligible voters figure out how and where to vote

Racial Justice Task Force Forums

Racial justice community forums

The Contra Costa County Racial Justice Task Force was created by the Board of Supervisors in April 2016, and given a mandate to:

  • Research and identify consensus measures within the County to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system;
  • Plan and oversee implementation of the measures once identified; and
  • Report back to the Board of Supervisors on progress made toward reducing racial disparities within the criminal justice system.

The Task Force has developed draft recommendations for the County to reduce racial disparities in the justice system, and it will host three community Forums in May 2018 to present the recommendations and solicit community input and feedback before it takes them to Board of Supervisors in June 2018.

  • Monday, May 7, 6-8 PM: Mt. Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church 55 Eckley Ln, Walnut Creek
  • Tuesday, May 8, 6-8 PM: Delta Bay Church of Christ 13 Sunset Dr, Antioch
  • Wednesday, May 9, 6-8 PM: Catholic Charities, West County Service Center, 217 Harbour Way Richmond

You can also provide input to the Task Force online at this link. Click here to see a list of the Task Force’s 17 members, and meeting locations and agendas for each monthly meeting, held the first Wednesday of every month at 1 PM.

CoCo Sheriff Retaliates Against Advocates Helping Detainees

The Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office, under investigation for mistreatment of ICE detainees, has retaliated against the group that helped the detainees and helped spark the investigation.

On March 6, 2018, the office of Sheriff Livingston terminated the visitation program at the West County Detention Facility (WCDF) that the non-profit advocacy group Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement (CIVIC) had operated to assist detainees and their families. Since 2011, CIVIC volunteers have been providing services to the families of detainees and post-release support to those who are released or deported. They are sometimes the only people the detainees can talk to about their cases, or their only contact with the outside world if their family is far away or can’t visit.

The Sheriff claimed that volunteers violated policy, but CIVIC asserts that the revocation was in retaliation for its part in bringing immigrants’ allegations of abuse at the facility to the light of day, which led to investigations by state and federal officials.

While CIVIC works with the ACLU to contest the revocation, here are several things we can do to help CIVIC and the detainees and their families:

  • Learn more about CIVIC here and sign up here to get updates and alerts from the Friends of CIVIC about how you can help.
  • Read the ACLU’s letter to the Sheriff’s office.
  • Attend events to support the detainees held at WCDF, 5555 Giant Highway, Richmond. The Interfaith Coalition for Human Rights holds a monthly vigil there, usually on the first Saturday of every month – check their calendar for exact date and time. Kehilla Community Synagogue’s Immigration Committee holds a protest at WCDF the second Sunday of each month, from 11 AM to 12 PM.
  • Call the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office at (925) 335-1500 to express your concern about the Sheriff’s current action, and urge them to restore CIVIC’s visitation program.
  • Please sign petitions that Together We Will Contra Costa launched, and which IEB and many other groups have co-sponsored, to ask local Democratic representatives who have endorsed Sheriff Livingston to rescind their endorsements.

Are you a constituent of Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11)? If so, please thank him for his hard work in support of immigrants, as reported in the San Francisco Chronicle on March 9:

U.S. Rep. Mark DeSaulnier says it’s time for Contra Costa County to end its relationship with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

The Democratic congressman from Concord, who recently toured the Richmond jail that the county leases to the federal government for detention of undocumented immigrants, said that the Contra Costa County sheriff’s office’s move this week to ban volunteers from visiting immigrants inside the jail — to check on their well-being — was the last straw.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095

Read our article about the statement released by the ICE Out of California Coalition, signed by IEB and other groups.

Photograph by Boardhead (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Liberty and Justice For All

“Liberty and Justice for All” – these are words we don’t always associate with this administration’s immigration policy. But Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi informed and inspired a large crowd in El Sobrante on January 27 about “Immigration Realities” and the new, innovative Stand Together CoCo immigrant rapid-response program. Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond hosted the talk, which was attended by local political leaders, community members, and representatives of progressive groups including Indivisible East Bay and CA-11 Team United.

Saidi outlined Stand Together CoCo, which will officially begin on March 1 and will provide wide-ranging education and support services and some legal consultation and services. Among these services:

  • Paid community responders will staff a 24/7 hotline to verify and provide accurate information about immigration-related activities reported in the community.
  • Team members will be dispatched when necessary to respond to reports of ICE raids.
  • Legal observers will document and collect data.
  • Community Supporters will provide immediate support to families and individuals who have been targeted or detained.
  • When possible, lawyers will meet with detainees (at present, there is funding for only three lawyers).

The program will also hold education and support events all over the county, including Know Your Rights, legal consultation and services, workshops for people detained in the West County Detention Facility, clinical consultations, and training for trainers/leadership development.

The audience was eager to hear how it could help, and Saidi provided a Volunteer Interest Form with a variety of ways community members can step up to support  immigrant neighbors and friends. The volunteer program, which is being administered primarily by Catholic Charities of the East Bay, is looking for people interested in conducting Know Your Rights presentations or helping with outreach to spread the word about immigrant rights and the hotline; presenters to assist at community meetings; supporters who can accompany people to ICE appointments or help them find resources; and more.

If you want to volunteer to help, please fill out the online volunteer application. Have questions? You can email Joseline Gonzalez Soriano, Stand Together CoCo’s Interim Coordinator, for information. More info will be posted soon on the Catholic Charities’ website.

You can also help by spreading the word about Stand Together CoCo and other rapid response networks. See this list of networks in California to report ICE activity and enforcement. To report ICE action in Contra Costa before March 1, contact Alameda County’s rapid response program, ACILEP, at 510-241-4011.  

Saidi, whose family moved from Tehran, Iran, to Los Angeles when he was five years old, recalled that he didn’t really understand the Pledge of Allegiance when he said it in school for the first time, but he liked the sound of the final words: “Indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Saidi encouraged the audience to work for “liberty and justice for all,” and emphasized that the words are not a description of what America is but of what it might be – and that “pledge” means committing to putting in the work to reach the goal. We at Indivisible East Bay could not agree more.

Photograph of Ali Saidi by Judy Weatherly,  Courageous Resistance / Indivisible El Sobrante – Richmond 
Judith Tannenbaum contributed to this article. Judith is a writer and teacher. Her books include Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.

Who’s Endorsing Contra Costa Sheriff Livingston? And Why?

By Champagne Brown and Judith Tannenbaum

Although the filing period to elect the Contra Costa Sheriff hasn’t even opened yet, some local Democratic representatives have already endorsed incumbent Sheriff David Livingston in his re-election bid. This is the Sheriff who:

Several groups working on criminal justice and immigration issues, including Together We Will,  are concerned about Democratic representatives supporting Sheriff Livingston’s re-election. They also ask what effect the endorsements, made before the February 12 to March 9 filing period, will have on any potential progressive candidate who might consider running.

Although it’s sadly likely Sheriff Livingston will run unopposed, we must speak out against his record and make sure none of our Democratic representatives supports him. Check the current list of endorsers on Livingston’s website to see whether any of them represents you (find your state representative here; find your Member of Congress here). If so, please call and demand that they retract their endorsement of a candidate who does not represent the values of their constituents or party.  If your representative has not endorsed Livingston, please call to thank them and to ask that they NOT endorse him. See below for sample call scripts and contact info for both situations.

Endorsers as of January 23:

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m calling to express my disappointment that _________ has endorsed Sheriff Livingston for reelection. It’s shocking to me that  _________ would endorse a candidate for Sheriff whose record doesn’t align with the values of their constituents or party. It’s especially shocking that this endorsement appears before the filing period has even opened. I ask that ____________  retract their endorsement immediately. Thank you.

If none of the endorsers represents you, call your Member of Congress and state representatives (use the links above to find them if you don’t know them; contact info below as well).

What to say:

Hi. My name is ___, my zip code is ___. I’m shocked at the local Democrats who have already endorsed Sheriff Livingston for re-election, even before the filing period. Please don’t endorse Livingston. I hope that instead you’ll encourage progressive Democratic candidates to run against the Sheriff. I also ask you to speak with Congressmember Mike Thompson, State Senators Glazer and Dodd, and State Assemblymembers Frazier and Grayson to urge them to retract their endorsements.

Members of Congress

State Representatives

Contra Costa County Supervisors

Champagne Brown is a Social Service Worker and Community Activist who is a member of the Contra Costa Racial Justice Coalition and Black Women Organized for Political Action, where she serves as the Political Education Chair. 

Judith Tannenbaum is a writer and teacher. Her books include “Disguised as a Poem: My Years Teaching Poetry at San Quentin.”

Graphic © Together We Will Contra Costa

Stand Together Contra Costa

On September 19, 2017, the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the development of Stand Together CoCo, a county-wide immigrant rapid-response program. The innovative pilot, designed to operate from January 1, 2018 to June 30, 2020, will provide community education and support services for immigrants in Contra Costa, as well as no-cost defense services for low-income county residents at risk of deportation.  The program, proposed by the Contra Costa Immigrant Rights Alliance and fast-tracked by the Board of Supervisors, will be managed by the Contra Costa Public Defender’s Office.

On January 27 at 2 PM at Hope Lutheran Church in El Sobrante, Contra Costa Deputy Public Defender Immigration Attorney Ali Saidi will speak about the new rapid response program, including how we can get involved and volunteer. Saidi will also give an overview of local and national immigration realities, including an update on the implementation of SB 54, California’s Sanctuary State bill.

Saidi’s presentation, “Stand Together CoCo & Immigration Realities,” is hosted by Courageous Resistance/Indivisible El Sobrante/Richmond. The event is free, and all are welcome to attend, and to stay after Saidi’s presentation for the host group’s general meeting. Click here to RSVP (not required). Email Courageous Resistance if you have questions.