For Black Angelenos, election of Karen Bass brings joy in a divisive time. But they want results.
AUGUSTA — Last year, the election of Karen Bass, a black woman, to the California Board of Equalization sparked debate across the state. As the first Latina to hold statewide office, she became one of just nine to win more than half of the statewide vote. The California secretary of state, who oversees elections, had said that the new voter turnout in black, Latino and Asian districts had outpaced that in white districts. Bass didn’t.
When she announced that she was making her run for governor on June 14, it put an interesting spin on the election in her state. Her announcement was widely interpreted as a way of addressing the disproportionate representation of black voters in California, and it brought attention to the ways in which California used its limited number of voting stations in predominantly Latino and black neighborhoods to suppress the vote.
“For all the talk about how we need to increase voter participation, the election of Karen Bass shows how few voters will be going to the polls in areas that have not historically been politically engaged.” — Justin Levitt, professor of government and African American studies at California State University, San Bernardino
Some black voters began sharing their own stories of having their votes rejected in areas they had already lived in and worked in, or they explained how they would never vote for a governor who was black and female. Others shared how the election was particularly important to them, given that they live with HIV or hepatitis C.
Many voters who didn’t share their stories, or whose stories didn’t quite fit the stereotypical narrative of black voters being out of touch with the political process, thought the election was the best of its kind ever. Those who voted for her said they were glad that she had fought for them and others in the state.
In her announcement, Karen Bass said she hoped to increase voter participation and make voting accessible to all. At a time when people are increasingly isolated and disenfranchised due to state barriers, the election of Karen Bass demonstrates that voter participation is more than an abstract issue. It is something voters themselves can define — a