Long Beach, Calif. – While you’d be hard pressed to find someone who would consider the fact that only 17.5% of registered voters and about 10% of the Long Beach population cast votes in last month’s primary election is impressive, it is worth noting that nearly 9,600 more votes were cast this year than in the last citywide mayoral primary in 2010. This only increased the voter turnout percentage by .6% though because close to 47,000 new voters have registered in the past four years.
As part of the Long Beach Rising! voter-engagement efforts, community groups across Long Beach are working to engage new and infrequent voters, and hitting the streets to shape the long-term culture shift of making voting a priority.
Just this year, LB Rising has led and supported extensive canvassing efforts over 22 canvassing days and knocked on nearly 7500 doors; supported 175 volunteers over 360 volunteer shifts; led canvasser trainings in English, Spanish and Khmer; converted nearly 600 voters to Vote-by-Mail status; hosted People’s State of the City, with 300 residents attending and learning about the issues impacting working families leading up to the election; and created a 52-page, comprehensive candidate guide for voters, covering a range of issues with nearly 80% of candidates responding.
LB Rising’s work has brought many new participants into Long Beach’s political process.
Take, for example, Thida Chhon. Chhon became involved with Housing Long Beach, a partner organization of LB Rising when her mom, a Cambodian refugee, participated in the HLB documentary film project. At first, Chhon did not want her mom to participate in the film and share about their experiences living in an overcrowded apartment, but once she saw her mother’s courage, she began to get involved as well. Chhon and her mom, Soth Chum, have walked precincts together in Cambodia town and talked to their neighbors about the importance of voting.
Chhon said, “I never used to understand why voting was important, but now I see that if the community isn’t involved, we can’t make change. I have learned a lot from precinct walking, like how to talk to my neighbors and I have also learned more about how people in my neighborhood live. I hope everybody votes so we can get more help on the issues that matter to us.”
Similarly, Jedi Jimenez, community organizer in Long Beach’s Filipino community, said that he’s held off from voting in the past because he felt hopeless, but is inspired to vote now in order “to give voice to the issues in our community.”
Linda Lath of Khmer Girls in Action said, “I’m inspired to vote because I believe everyone’s voice should be seen and heard. In the past, I felt like I didn’t have the knowledge to vote. Now I know that every vote matters if we want to make a difference in our community and for our community to be noticed.”
Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach steering committee member Kazmere Duffy said, “I’ve had ups and downs when it comes to voting. I had this preconceived thought that my vote would not help since it was only one vote. I began to think what if everyone thought like that? Then justice would not be served nor would our community thrive. That’s when I decided to get more people registered so it just wouldn’t be my one vote—it would be friends, family, and neighbors voting too.”
Long Beach Rising! is a non-partisan civic engagement program initiated by the Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community and designed by local community organizations based on a shared, equal decision-making process by participating organizations. The program promotes civic participation, voter engagement, and community organizing among historically underrepresented communities. The main issues the group organizes around include jobs, housing, education, immigrant rights, environmental health, and neighborhood safety.
LB Rising partner organizations include ‘Aikona: Sustainability in Service, Anakbayan Long Beach, Building Healthy Communities: Long Beach, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, CSULB Political Science Student Association, Filipino Migrant Center, Housing Long Beach, Khmer Girls in Action, Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy, Long Beach Area Peace Network, Long Beach Coalition for Good Jobs and a Healthy Community, Long Beach Time Exchange, LBCC Civic Engagement Club, LBCC Community Studies Project, The LGBTQ Center of Long Beach.
For more information, e-mail [email protected].