Jennifer Martinez and Penny Nixon

This past Tuesday marked the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. No doubt the suffrage movement was a gigantic step in bringing our country closer to the ideal of a true democracy, however, even its triumph, after decades of struggle, we are still left with an incomplete and imperfect union. Women of color suffragists were consistently sidelined although their work for and impact on the movement was undeniably crucial to the eventual victory that resulted in the 19th Amendment. Suffragist history has often rendered these women invisible and the last century has shown us that, at least in this country, it was white women who got the right to vote, not all women. Black women, in particular, have been denied the vote time and again through the targeting of minorities with restrictive laws along with every imaginable tactic possible to undermine voting rights.

Three weeks ago as our nation laid to rest Congressman John Lewis, in his eulogy President Obama said of his hero: “The life of John Lewis was, in so many ways, exceptional. It vindicated the faith in our founding, redeemed that faith; that most American of ideas; that idea that any of us ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation, and come together, and challenge the status quo, and decide that it is in our power to remake this country that we love until it more closely aligns with our highest ideals. What a radical ideal. What a revolutionary notion.”

This radical idea is founded on the most fundamental right that underlies every other right we treasure, and that fundamental right is the right to vote. When that right is threatened, diminished, questioned, attacked, denied — the very foundations of our democracy begin to crumble. If we care about our democracy, then we, ordinary people, must do everything in our power to protect that right.

Here in San Mateo County, we may not believe this issue concerns us. After all, we aren’t living 100 years ago, or in the Jim Crow South, and we have one of the highest voter turnout records in the state. But the pandemic, combined with recent acts by the Trump Administration, demonstrate that our democratic right to vote is not a forgone conclusion. Like other rights, we must be vigilant to protect, expand and exercise the right to vote or our democracy will be but a shadow of its potential.

We must protect the right to vote. Historically and in other parts of the country, protecting the franchise has involved protests and legal battles. In a pandemic, protection looks very different. In response to thousands of California residents calling for action, Gov. Newsom and the Legislature have made the November 2020 election the first all-mail ballot in the state, while also maintaining in-person drop off sites. This means that every registered voter will receive their ballot in the mail, whether they requested it that way or not, and will be able to return that ballot by mail, at a polling location or at an official ballot drop box. This will protect our ability to vote and protect our collective health.

We must expand the vote. In 2018, over 9 million Californians who were eligible to vote either were not registered or did not cast a ballot. If we value inclusion and a robust democracy, we should be concerned when we don’t hear the voice of 40% of eligible voters in our state. Research shows us that people don’t vote because they don’t know they aren’t registered, are intimidated by the ballot, or don’t believe their voice matters. While there are organizations who are working to expand our electorate, it is all of our responsibility to ensure that our family and neighbors know that they matter and that their vote matters.

We must exercise our vote. This year, there are many important national, state and local decisions that voters must make and, while we may assume where California will head on the presidential question, polls are showing that many of our statewide and local initiatives — the things that affect our everyday lives — are too close to call. That means every vote will matter. What should you do? Plan to submit your ballot early. Host ballot parties (via zoom, of course) to discuss the initiatives and candidates so you can make an informed decision. Mail it in or, better yet, use one of the drop boxes located around the county to make sure your ballot get in on time and is counted.

As Congressman Lewis suggested, every election is an opportunity to align our nation and our communities with our highest ideals. 2020 is not exceptions and maybe more important than ever.

Dr. Jennifer Martinez is the chief strategy officer for PICO California, the largest faith-based community organizing network in California, representing over 400,000 families across 26 counties. For the past 20 years, Jennifer has helped lead many efforts for housing justice, immigrant rights, restorative justice and quality education. Since 2012, she has helped design and lead local and statewide get-out-the-vote efforts among low-propensity voters. The Rev. Dr. Penny Nixon is the co-director of the Peninsula Solidarity Cohort and the Senior Minister of the Congregational Church of San Mateo. A community leader and political activist, she has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work in both San Francisco and San Mateo working on LGBTQ rights, immigration, racial justice and housing.

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(11) comments

Tommy Tee

Remember, folks: If Trump loses, the election was rigged. If he wins, it wasn't.


If he doesn't with with an enormous, incredibly unbelievable landslide, - it was rigged!

Christopher Conway

Jorg- an example were you made a grammatical error and I being the understanding person, will not criticize you. Couldn't say the same for you if I made an unfortunate error, you would have attacked me for being an ignorant Trump supporter. Which you have done it the past. See the difference between you and I.


It is "you and me", Chris, not "you and I". And, sorry about the "with" instead of "win". I didn't proof read well enough

Christopher Conway

that pretty much sums it up. Thank you for that Tommy T

Christopher Conway

These women are another great example on why this country should always continue to separate Church and State. With mail in voting, Republicans locally are organizing ballot harvesting drives to pick up all the ballots of elderly people who want to make sure Joe Biden never becomes president. We are going to make sure every Conservative ballot is retrieved and submitted. If you received a ballot in your mailbox and you are not quite sure why, just fill it out anyway and vote for Trump and against anything that these two authors support. There will be no oversight on signatures and no effort to clean up the states voter rolls so it will be like the Wild, Wild West in voting. Let's make sure our side takes advantage of this fiasco of mail in voting and vote, vote, vote. Let's shock the world for 2nd time and defeat liberals at the ballot box and reject everything they stand for. If you are a Republican and you need a ballot or someone to pick up your ballot, please call me and I will make sure you get one and I will personally pick it up for you. Lastly, if you get a ballot and it doesn't have your name on it, complete it anyway, no one will checking to make sure you had the right to complete that ballot. This is the entire reason Democrats are pushing mail in voting so hard, look forward to the chaos mail in voting is going to do to election results. Let's take the chaos and confusion and use it to our advantage.


A classic Republican conman at work just like your orange idol. You do know that you are encouraging voter fraud, a felony, or is information like that also banned from your

republican handbook? You know, the handbook that says that truth and honesty are cardinal sins and that facts must never be uttered.

Christopher Conway

If I am not caught, that means I did not commit fraud. It's in the Democrat handbook and we Republicans are just catching on a little slow to the game. Auditing these ballots it is going nearly impossible, there will be no way to tell if someone is cheating or not. So as the saying goes, When in Rome............


So, that's how Trump "won" last time! Thanks for the insight, Chris.

Christopher Conway

Your welcome Jorg, anytime buddy



Sorry, I got sidetracked and didn't include this earlier. Your opening sentence of your comment is in direct conflict with your choice of politics and presidents. The Trump administration is doing what it can to tear down the wall between church and state. Here is a recent example:

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