The Democracy issue area showcases a significant growth in both political participation and power amongst Latinx, AIAN (American Indian, Indigenous, American Native), Black, and Asian Californians compared to Whites. For example, the data showcases that people of color are less likely to be registered voters and vote and are less likely to be represented in government by elected officials from their race or ethnicity. In the future, we will likely see that, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, political participation will increase because of multiple factors, including statewide adoption of vote-by-mail.
Before the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states used poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent Black citizens from voting. Even after the voting barriers of the Jim Crow era were removed, lawmakers continue to pursue policies that discriminate and discourage people of color from voting, such as using Voter ID requirements and restrictions that make voting less accessible.
Community leaders in California are currently building a new electorate, pushing for policies that empower and shift resources to low-income communities of color and build political power. An important step in improving outcomes on this issue area is improving the availability of data. For instance, the indicators available to us primarily focus on voting, meaning that we have an incomplete picture of disparities in other forms of political participation. Insufficient data limit our understanding of democracy outcomes for AIAN, NHPI and other less populous groups. Another way we can improve is by increasing political engagement among underrepresented populations in voting and other areas, such as through participatory budgeting. Lastly, local governments, particularly those in areas with large numbers of people of color, should create offices of equity that oversee how well or poorly the local jurisdiction is doing on ensuring equity and develop policies to advance equity within its boundaries.
Voting is the primary mode of political participation in the United States and is central to ensuring that elected representatives and statutory initiatives address community needs.