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California on the Ballot

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About California on the Ballot

According to the popular saying, “As California goes, so goes the nation.” With the eyes of the country and the world upon us as leaders in innovation, social and political movements, and economic growth, we believe our state has a critical story to tell and learnings to share about civic and electoral engagement in a large and diverse state.

Through California on the Ballot, a statewide initiative, we invite the people of California and beyond to reflect and talk—with journalists, historians, election experts, and more—about the past, present, and future of electoral engagement in California.

Please join us for this free series of virtual events designed to inspire inquiry and enhance understanding. Together, we’ll explore critical questions like:

A colorful poster with dates, time, and descriptions of different events along with a photo to accompany.
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What is the history of the California ballot initiative process?

What is the story behind the Electoral College, and what is California’s role in it?

Who are the disenfranchised voters in the state, and why? Who isn’t voting, and why not?

What stories about elections can we learn from a variety of California’s archives?

Did watershed moments of expanding voter exclusion – such as suffrage and civil rights – change electoral politics in California?

With a majority of social media companies in Silicon Valley, what influence does California have in election decision-making?

What will voting look like in 2040 in California?


Upcoming Events

 Show & Tell: What Can We Learn From Voting Artifacts?
Thursday, February 25 at 4pm PT
Take a trip back through California’s voting history in this show-and-tell led by historian Susan D. Anderson and archivists from across the state. Hear seldom-told stories of struggles for voting rights and representation, from Suffrage to Civil Rights and more.
The 70.8%: What Explains California’s Voter Turnout?
Wednesday, March 10 at 4pm
In 2020, California had its highest voter turnout since 1952; but why? What factors into high and low voter turnout? How have watershed moments in California history affected turnout? We’ll explore what voting’s past means for California’s future.
California Dreamin’: How Do Social Movements Reimagine California?
Thursday, March 25, 2021 at 4pm
How do artists, writers, and activists help us reimagine California? We will delve into the ideas behind sociopolitical movements — utopic and dystopic – their catalysts and their implications for California’s democracy.
The Fourth Branch: Does Social Media Affect Election Outcomes?
Thursday, April 8, 2021 at 4pm
Silicon Valley plays an important role in California’s society, economy, and politics. What has been the impact of tech companies on elections and campaigns? How do social media and traditional media interact?
California Youth and the Ballot: What Will 2040 Look Like?
Thursday, April 29 at 7pm
To conclude our series, we open the stage to the next generation of California’s voters. What are young people doing now to address the issues they care about? What future do they want to build when they come of voting age?


Past Events

  • January 19, 2021
    The Electoral College – What Were The Founders Thinking?
    The Electoral College is an original American model, never duplicated outside of the country. Created after lively debate in the last ten days of the five-month long Constitutional Convention of 1787, it set forth that presidents would be selected — not by popular vote — but by electors in each state. What is its legacy today, in a more populous and mature America? Watch Sonja Diaz, Karthick Ramakrishnan,Mindy Romero and moderator Dan Schnur delves into the history and future of the Electoral College.
  • October 28, 2020
    What’s the Deal With Direct Democracy? From the legality of prize fighting (1914) to the definition of marriage (2000), Californians have approved 132 ballot measures, with profound and long-lasting consequences for the state. Watch Rachael Myrow of KQED and journalist Joe Mathews of Zocalo, filmmaker Jason Cohn, director of First Angry Man and Dr. Raphael Sonenshein of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at CSU Los Angeles discuss the history of California’s use of ballot initiatives. This conversation, our first in California on the Ballot series, was recorded a week before the November 2020 election.For more information, please write to Kirsten Vega at kvega@calhum.org.
Download the Press Release

The Andrew W. Mellon FoundationThis initiative is funded by the “Why it Matters: Civic and Electoral Participation” initiative, administered by the Federation of State Humanities Councils and funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.