About California on the Ballot
In the political experiment that is the American republic, California may be the most visible laboratory. Our state’s variety of cultures, languages, and opinions yields a nearly infinite variety of possibilities for civic engagement. From writing poetry to running for office, from voter drives to direct actions, residents of the Golden State constantly seek new opportunities to forge a more just society—and will continue to do so as our electorate continues to diversify in the future.
“The ‘California Dream’ is capacious,” Dr. William Deverell observed during California Dreamin’. “It can absorb hopes and wishes beyond the conventional Gold Rush dreaming that we tend to caricature. [It] can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people.”
Through California on the Ballot, a series of virtual events, we reflect on what civic engagement currently looks like in California, examine its roots, and ask what changes might soon be in store. In 12 statewide programs since the elections of 2020, we have heard the perspectives of historians, artists, journalists, civil servants, and archivists through panel discussions, interviews, displays of historical artifacts, film clips, and Q&A sessions with viewers.
California on the Ballot Experiences
We discuss the state of civic power for immigrants and DACA status holders in California – electoral and beyond – from California’s founding to current day. What role might California’s immigrant communities might play in the future of citizenship?
In November 2020, California voted to refranchise 50,000 parolees under Prop 17, sparking a broader conversation about voting rights for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated citizens. How has this question been discussed throughout state history?
Since 1960, California has greatly improved its voter registration process. Ballots are now mail-in, multilingual, and registration is available up to election day. Why then do California elections not fully reflect the diversity of the state? What tactics can increase – and sustain – voter engagement?