In Los Angeles (L.A.) County, nearly two million votes were cast in the 2018 midterm election, about 500,000 more than in 2014. County-wide, election results were overwhelmingly in favor of the Democratic party. L.A. flipped the 25th congressional district for Katie Hill, voted blue for Gil Cisneros (though he ultimately wound up trailing Republican Young Kim in other counties by about 4,000 votes), and voted for Governor-elect Gavin Newsom by a margin of 69.87 percent.
Propositions 1 and 2 passed increasing funding for affordable housing for homeless and mentally ill residents. Proposition 10 — which would have allowed local governments additional authority on rent-control boards — failed to pass. The effects of newly passed Propositions 1 and 2 will be interesting to see in Whittier, as the City’s new homeless plan begins to take place.
Challengers taking on incumbents performed well locally: Oscar Valladares unseated Rio Hondo Board of Trustees Area Five incumbent Madeline Shapiro, and, likewise, Rosaelva Lomeli unseated Area Three incumbent Mary Ann Pacheco. Lisa Dabbs earned a seat on the East Whittier City School District, and Millennial Natalia Barajas won a seat on the South Whittier School District.
Barajas said she was inspired to run for office after not getting into a graduate program at the University of Southern California (USC). “Looking at USC, you see a bunch of people that are bred to be excellent at education. Looking here, you see 65 percent of students not obtaining proficiency levels of English, 75 percent in math, how can we compete with these schools?”
A South Whittier native and Whittier College alumna (with a Bachelor of Arts in Kinesiology, and a Master of Arts degree in Education), Barajas attended local schools and was inspired to make a change in the educational system. “I fought tooth and nail to be able to graduate college, and I still had all these barriers to overcome. My story isn’t everybody else’s where I grew up. I’m lucky to be where I’m at.” Barajas also attributed her decision to run for office to the current political climate.
Paola Ruiz, a Santa Fe High School senior who participated in Sustainable City’s voter activation project for this election, said, “The 2018 midterm elections evoked mixed emotions from me. On one side of the spectrum, Arthur Jones, former leader of the American Nazi Party, lost, but still received more than 56,000 votes — over 56,000 people still supporting racism and ethnocentric views in the 21st century. On the other hand, women, LGBTQIA+ members, and ethnic minorities, such as Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland — the first Native American women elected to Congress — made history. On a local scale, in Greater Whittier, all Latinx challengers to school board seats were elected. While I can’t comprehend why a Neo-Nazi was even on the ballot in the first place, I do know one thing to be true — there is hope for American democracy. Cheers to the empowered women, to people of all colors and sexual orientations, to those who believe in true equality, to those who believe in a better future, for this was the first of many victories to come.”
Following the 2016 election, many voters have been activated to not only cast a ballot, but also to participate in campaigning. Whittier Democrat and campaign volunteer Chris La Farge said of the 2018 midterm election outcomes, “It’s much better than 2016. I do not mind Republicans who are for small government and lower taxes. I get that. But there’s no place for demagoguery and veiled racism.”
First-time voter and campaign volunteer Jazmyn Sudbrook got involved with local politics when her Political Methodology course at Whittier College offered extra credit to students who participated in a candidate campaign. “It was an amazing experience to be able to actually connect and talk with someone who is on an actual ballot. Also, it made them more relatable on a personal level,” said Sudbrook. “We were able to hand out literature to people who were actually outside their homes, and encouraged them to vote.”
Voting in California is less difficult comparatively than other states. Same-day voter registration is available at the county registrar’s office, and voters have the option to become permanent absentee voters to skip long lines at the polls.
Whittier College student and first-time voter, Laine Kotowski, had planned to vote in her home state of Massachusetts by mail, but when her ballot did not arrive in time, she decided to go to the L.A. County Registrar in Norwalk and register in California. “It’s so exciting to me to see so many people my age talk so much about voting, and offer resources on how to vote, who to vote for, and where,” said Kotowski.
Next Gen America, an environmental organization that focuses on turning out young voters, reported that 31 percent of young people (18 – 29) voted in the 2018 midterm elections, up ten percent from 2014.