My First Time in California

I’m usually bored or irritated by election buzz. While I consider voting an important and hard fought for tool in our toolboxes for change, I certainly don’t consider it the end all and be all and frankly I am sick of the rhetoric that reduces non-voters to ignorant lazy asses. I am also extremely bothered by the way DREAMers are being used and patronized in this election by saw called progressive organizations and labor unions. The idea that this group of relatively young people who have made great strides in terms of pushing the conversation of immigration in this country do not have a voice and require people to be their voice is paternalistic and does nothing to build movement. I was very excited to vote today though. Today marks the first time I vote outside of my home city of New York and the first time voting as a Los Angeles, California resident.

The presidential election isn’t very exciting or enticing to me even. I voted for president this morning, accompanied by my partner,a lifelong Angeleno. What is simultaneously fascinating and confusing for me is the whole ballot provisions thing. In California there are 11 state measures and in Los Angeles County 2. The propositions are about sex, death, and taxes.

Last night, I sat surrounded by the official California Voter Guide and all the mailings that my partner and I have received. We even have the Official California Republican Voter Guide which interestingly enough does not have Mitt Romney anywhere! As I filled out little bubbles and read the guides, it felt like I was preparing for a big test, except that everyone passes or fails depending on the collective outcomes.

As someone who is new to the whole proposition process, the combination of mailings, television and radio ads, felt really overwhelming. As a parent of kids in Los Angeles Unified School District Community Schools I see the need for more money in the public schools but I certainly can’t afford higher taxes and I worry about that money going to charter schools instead of the schools in hoods like mine that are struggling and serve primarily poor and working class immigrant families. For the record, I feel like I cheated and voted yes for both Gov. Brown’s Prop. 30 and millionaire Molly Munger’s Prop 38.

Matters of life and death seemed easier. While I am really unhappy that Prop. 34 still continues to feed the prison industrial complex, saving someone’s life, especially people of color who are disproportionately criminalized and sentenced to death seemed like a good enough reason to vote yes. I have a little bit of voter’s remorse reading how one of the ill effects of this measure could be the loss of free legal representation for those on death row.

Connected is Prop 36 which  would change the Three Strikes Law to impose life sentences to new violent/serious felony convictions not bullshit drug charges. Again this passing is not going to stop people of color being used as fodder for an increasingly privatized prison system. This is reform not real change but it is something. So I voted yes on 36.

At my new polling site, which also serves as after-school care for my younger child, there were no lines and my name was found quickly. I will tell you that using that little marker thing with the booklet felt more like a childhood game than voting. For the record, I didn’t like when NYC switched from their old, clunky metal machines to the scantron like system. But I voted and even got a sticker and receipt to prove it, something I never got in Queens, NYC.

I’ll be happy to share how I voted on any other propositions or races if people are interested but voting in a new place, with a new system was exciting and felt important. Even my mom called me to make sure I voted today.

How was your voting experience today?

All photos @kmontenegro

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