Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the African American Civic Engagement Project hosted a pre-election briefing where the public could come and see how Black communities throughout California are feeling about the ballot for Nov. 8th’s general election on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at Supervisor Ridley-Thomas’ Exposition Park District Office.
Shakari Byerly presented her data based on polls and focus groups conducted earlier this year with different groups of Black people from the Bay Area all the way down to Los Angeles and in between. The polls included information on feelings towards the presidential candidates, homelessness, Black Lives Mater and more.
The Black community throughout California had consistent views on many issues including a large opposition to Presidential Candidate Donald Trump and a favorable view on Black Lives Matter. However, there was some difference in opinions between the poll takers under 40 and those over 40 on Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton and the importance of voting.
“We did focus groups up and down the state with millennials, with baby boomers, with African American men, African American women,” said Byerly. “What we heard, particularly among our millennials is that people want something to vote for. People want solutions and real social change.”
One issue that came to the forefront was Proposition 57, which would allow 5,620 current inmates the opportunity to reduce their sentencing time if they were convicted of non-violent felonies. This initiative would reduce overcrowding in state prisons, however there would be no services provided to the inmates upon their release.
The audience compared this proposition to Proposition 47 which helps convicts who committed non-violent felonies change them to misdemeanors, but also gives 65 percent of total state savings from the proposition to mental health care, substance abuse disorder treatment, supportive housing and other re-entry services. The audience argued that since Proposition 57 does not offer services upon society re-entry, it would worsen the issue and possibly result in inmates being sent right back into prison.
“It is bad policy to advance any measure where you can anticipate the consequences knowing those consequences are going to further compound the problem people already endure,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Jerry Brown clean up your act. If you do Prop 57 you need to put resources with it.”
Another topic of discussion was voter rights for people who have been incarcerated. In the state of California, if a person is in county jail but on probation, they can vote. Also, if a person is in county jail serving for a misdemeanor, they still have the right to vote. The only times an incarcerated person can’t vote are if they are currently serving a state prison sentence or are currently on parole.
The African American Civic Engagement Project is working to inform and register as many voters as they can before Oct. 24, which is the last day to register to vote in the state of California. For more information about how you can get involved, visit www.supportaacep.org.