Readers may know that I teach citizenship at Puente Learning Center in Boyle Heights, and the most recent of my students to graduate and become a citizen is Maria Garrido, a mother of four who has dreamed for years of doing what some people take for granted — voting.
California is sending out mail-in ballots to Maria and all citizens, beginning Monday, Oct. 5. If you don’t get one, or one needs to be replaced, you can contact the county election office.
The ballots — if they are mailed in — have to be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3. People can, of course, vote in person, either early or on Election Day — when they can register at the polls.
If that sounds a bit confusing, think of the myriad offices that are being contested, the 12 state propositions to decide, along with South Pasadena elections for City Council, school board and Measure U. More on that later.
Garrido plans to study for this election like she did the questions for citizenship. She passed the test about six weeks ago, and was sworn in as a citizen the same day.
You might not know this, but two of the citizenship questions are:
• What is one privilege only for U.S. citizens? Answer: Voting in a federal election.
• What is one responsibility only for U.S. citizens? Answer: Voting in a federal election.
Garrido has two sons, now 21 and 20, and she has in past years dropped them off at the polls to vote.
“I used to dream that one day that would be me,” she said, “that I would be able to vote. And with a lot of hard work and studying, I have made it.
“My vote will be counted. I love this country and by voting, I can show that love.”
Garrido plans to sit down with her sons and talk over the issues after reading and watching all she can about the candidates and the propositions. “We can discuss each other’s points of view,” she said. “This will be my first time, and I’ll need their support.”
The COVID-19 pandemic makes this an election like no other in recent memory, and we’ll all need each other’s help and support.
One of the best ways to support each other is to be informed. One of the best tools I’d recommend is the website at LAVote.net. You’ll find just about all the information you’ll need on when and how to register and when, how and where to vote. Don’t look for where and when to vote quite yet. That information may not go up for 30 or more days before the election.
Some of the important dates you should keep in mind:
• Oct. 19 — The last date to register to vote. That doesn’t mean you can’t cast a ballot. You can cast what is called a “conditional vote” any time during the 11 days of voting. A conditional vote is counted once it has been certified as being cast by a registered voter.
• Early in-person voting begins Oct. 24 at selected voting centers and is at all voting centers on Oct. 30. These voting centers will be announced soon, so check LAVote.net.
Early voting will be from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. and from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. on Election Day.
Wear a face covering. A face covering and gloves will be provided if needed.
Some thoughts on rules on early voting.
• You can mail back your ballot in a special envelope without postage. Be sure to seal and sign the envelope with a legible signature and date.
• Remember to always sign and date your early ballot. Signatures must be legible and dated or you may be asked to submit them again.
If you are like me, you are probably wondering exactly what you are voting for or against when it comes to propositions. The TV advertisements go by quickly, and the fine print requires a magnifying glass to determine who is sponsoring what commercial.
But try to do your homework. These propositions are important. Some of the state propositions this year include:
• Revision of property tax rules (Proposition 15)
• A return to affirmative action (Proposition 16)
• Special workplace rules for the gig economy.
I found a particularly interesting explanation of these issues on the Los Angeles Times website by typing in California propositions.
Another good source is at ballotpedia.org/California_2020_ballot_propositions. Google California Propositions for other sites and articles.
There is an important local proposition on the November ballot — Measure U, which renews South Pasadena’s utility users tax, or UUT. These funds are the second greatest source of funds for the city and pay for such things as street and sidewalk repair and benefit the police and fire departments, plus senior services and the public library.
All of this — plus voting for all sorts of other races including the presidency. We’ve all got to factor in how vulnerable we might feel about voting during the pandemic. I’ve always voted on Election Day, but with a compromised immune system, a mailed-in ballot seems the safest way to proceed.
One of my students, Griselda Zelaya, knows that she wants to go to the polls on Election Day to cast her first votes as an American citizen.
“I am so excited,” the 54-year-old mother of two sons said. “I came here 32 years ago not knowing what my life would be like, and there have been so many changes for me since then.
“How can I express these feelings that now I belong to this country? By voting, I can express how I feel. I now have a voice and can express what I want. I now have the same opportunity as people who were born here. It makes me happy to have the same privileges.”
This proud mom wants to have her sons, ages 12 and 11, see her vote.
“I’m going to take them with me when I vote and teach them the steps [in voting]. I want them to be proud of me.”
Information to help you plan for voting:
• Start by reading the website LAVote.net. It will give you a general overview as well as specific information about various aspects of voting in this year’s election.
• Oct. 5 — Mail-in ballots go out to voters.
• Oct. 19 — Last day to register to vote. (You can cast a conditional ballot through Election Day).
• Mid-October — Voting center booklet is sent, listing all voting locations and hours.
• Mid-October — Postcards listing four poll locations near you are sent.
• Ten days prior to Election Day — Certain poll centers open for voting 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
• Oct. 29 — All poll centers open for early voting 10 a.m.-7 p.m.
• All mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day.
• Be sure to sign (legibly) and date the mail-in ballot. The ballots can also be returned to voting centers around the county (to be announced about 30 days before election) and/or ballot box locations (TBA).
Voting in Person
• Hours on Election Day: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.
• Look at and print online sample ballot (suggested for your use).
• Print poll pass to be scanned into voting machine.
• Wear face coverings and gloves. They will be provided if needed.
• All voting machines will be cleaned after each use.
Conditional voting (the person has not previously registered).
• Voters fill out conditional voting form and then vote.
• Once the voting form is verified, ballot is counted.