California’s top election official addresses future of California elections — Calls for revival of Civil Rights era activism, sustained investment in voter education 

California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. delivered the keynote at the Future of California Elections Conference at the Hyatt Regency in Sacramento.

The conference brought together elections officials, election reform advocates, researchers, organizers, and other stakeholders to discuss key topics in voting and elections, build relationships, and together begin to imagine a future for our elections that better serves all voters.

Weber said that, while California has made significant advances increasing voter registration on a large scale and making voting easier and more accessible, more needs to be done to outreach to these new voters to help them cultivate habits of voting.

“As elections officials, we will never be satisfied not only when every eligible person is registered to vote, but when every registered voter actually shows up to vote. We must inform voters of the when, where and how of voting. But there is one thing that keeps us from being successful for the health of our democracy and to have sustained participation — we must remind voters of the ‘why’ of voting.”

Weber said it’s imperative that elections officials convey to voters that participation in voting is an exercise of their power to take control of their lives and to help their families, neighborhoods and communities flourish. She also exhorted California to revive the spirit of the Civil Rights era’s Freedom Summer, where hundreds of volunteers went to Mississippi in the summer of 1964 and risked arrest and violence to register Black voters and to educate them on how to exercise the franchise.

“There is too much at risk and too many people who died for women’s right to vote. There has been so much sacrifice to let it atrophy. As elections officials and advocates, we must make sure that we undertake the necessary task of educating the public on why voting matters.”

Weber made it clear that in order to translate policies for increased registration into expanded participation in an environment where democracy is under threat, lawmakers must prioritize sustained investment for voter education.

“If the state believes in it, they need to fund it.” she said.