Although the Liberated for Youth Empowerment (LYFE) program is fairly new it is already impacting communities in a positive way. Most of the LYFE youth members are not old enough to vote, but they are old enough to understand what is at stake and how this current 2021 Special Recall Election for Governor can impact their future. LYFE youth members have been participating in many late night phone banking, text banking, human billboarding, and mobilizing their own personal networks in between their school work and family time. They can be found most days of the week, including weekends, dancing with signs and screaming their hearts out urging thousands of passing cars on some of Kern, Tulare & Fresno’s busiest streets to vote. Lester Pineda, Kern County Youth member, says “It is important for our communities to go out to vote for a better future and to have our voices heard. We need to have our voices heard, especially for those members in communities of color and youth who are not able to cast their vote. We must vote for them.”
It has been inspiring seeing adults and youth come together to motivate people to cast their ballots. Most importantly, they know that every interaction is one voter that they can encourage to get to the polls! Many look forward to the day that they can register to vote and cast their first ballot. This is because the youth are an integral part of the community and want to craft a future that is equitable and justice for all.
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In partnership with Cali Calls, DHF Vecinos, Youth and staff gathered 2,500 signatures statewide to qualify the Schools & Communities First Initiative (later known as Proposition 15). The initiative aimed to address California’s most pressing challenges and inequities by investing more tax dollars in education, public services and infrastructure. A total of 268 volunteers were mobilized from across the nation. They completed a total of 1,962 volunteer shifts that included 1,420 phone banking shifts and 542 textbanking shifts, greatly exceeding volunteer recruitment goals.
Over 4,000 voters were contacted and identified as supporters of Prop 15. The Vecinos Unidos completed more than 1,000 volunteer shifts in support of DHF get out the vote (GOTV) efforts. Although results showed that there is strong public demand for closing the corporate tax loopholes which cost our local communities billions every year, the initiative fell short of the votes needed to pass. Most recently, DHF’s Ballot Curing Team helped 75 voters in Kern, Tulare & Fresno counties correct their ballots and submit them to their local elections offices before the deadline.
This pandemic has highlighted the socio-economic disparities in our communities, those that would have benefited the most had Prop 15 passed. We finished an historic campaign a few points shy of what we needed to win. What an enormous injustice that wealth grows for billionaires while the rest of us fight for basic resources. Regardless of the outcome, our opposition raised nearly $75 million to defeat us for a reason. We are a force to be reckoned with. Undaunted in our efforts this setback will not stop us from pursuing additional tax equity initiatives.
Like many, we had to be flexible with how we were organizing. While we are typically reliant on in-person door-to-door interaction with voters, due to the virus, this election cycle for our Prop 15 outreach, we had to rely entirely on online, virtual & relational organizing. In partnership with Cali Calls, starting in DHF hosted weekly phone banking and text banking volunteer events in support of Prop 15 as well as hosting weekly voter registration trainings which turned into Election Protection trainings during GOTV (Get Out The Vote). Our outreach was a combination of gathering support for Prop 15, educating voters on voting and mail-in ballots, and inviting them to our virtual events & recruiting volunteers.
Our IVE Coordinators (Team Leads), Lori Pesante and Eliana Honeycutt & [IVE] Organizer, Joanna Mendoza mobilized 22 DHF Staff and our 268 volunteers completed a total of 1,962 volunteers shifts ranging from DHF youth, DHF Vecinos, and volunteers from communities all over the U.S. Our volunteers hailed from all over the state, from the Bay Area, the Central Valley, and states like New York, Texas, & Oregon who all contributed 1,420 phone banking volunteer shifts, and 542 textbanking volunteers shifts, surpassing many of our goals. We are proud to have clenched the third rail of politics and shaken it fearlessly. Onward.