Political Philosophy for Michela AliotoCandidate for Secretary of State
Michela Alioto's Announcement Speech -- San Francisco 4.22.98One hundred years ago, my great-grandfather came to this country to start a new life for himself and his family, and on a spot not far from here, he started a small fish market. They used to call this neighborhood "Little City," because the area was surrounded by very rough neighborhoods, and the residents didnít feel safe traveling through them to get the goods they needed to survive. So a Little City sprang up behind these barriers to meet their needs.
I think we have a similar situation right now in the state of California. There exists a "Little California-" a state within a state. The denizens of Little California are the millions upon millions of people who are totally separated from the political process. They come from all walks of life, they are men and women, young people, and members of ethic minorities. But they all have one thing in common- they are underrepresented politically.
What is the population of Little California? Of the 19 million eligible voters in California, only 14 million are registered to vote. And of these, only 10 million vote in the typical statewide election. In short, the population of Little California is 9 million people- larger than the population of nearly every state in the nation.
One reason the population of Little California is so large, is that these people are surrounded by barriers that keep them from participating in the electoral process. They see guards at polling places. They are asked, contrary to law, to show identification. They are removed from registration rolls because they fail to vote.
But instead of removing barriers, more are erected with each passing day. The Republicans opposed Motor Voter, and now they want to gut it. They want to require people to provide a social security number to register to vote. They want to make poll guards legal and require photo identification to vote. They want to amend that historic legislation, the Federal Voting Rights Act, which, in the 1960s, brought millions of Americans to cast a vote for the very first time.
Iím here to say that this is not Mississippi and this is not 1960, this is California and this is 1998. We need to be focusing our efforts on bringing people into the political process, not spending our energies devising ways to keep people out of the process.
Let me make myself clear: as secretary of state I will have zero tolerance for election fraud, and I will thoroughly investigate any election in which there is evidence of criminal wrongdoing. But there is a clear difference between keeping bad people out of elections and erecting barriers to keep good people out of elections.
My vision for our state is that California return to its place as a leader among states as the most politically innovative in the nation. My vision is one in which our stateís tremendous diversity of culture and thought makes us strong and prosperous. Itís a vision in which our best time is ahead of us.
As I see it, the job of secretary of state is to make sure that our vast strengths as a people are reflected in the political makeup of our government. The strengths that we share as a culture and as an economic powerhouse must lead to a government that draws its strength from the equal representation of all its people.
California is now the undisputed world leader in technology, and I believe that we should use the wealth of knowledge in our state to remove some of the barriers that people face in voting.
Right now, traffic over the internet doubles every 100 days, and the amount of commerce over the internet is expected to be $300 billion by the year 2002. Now I ask you: does anyone in this room truly believe that on-line voting and on-line registration are not part of our future at some point? When, even today, one can do banking, pay bills, buy stocks, make airline reservations, buy products, and even send their tax forms over the internet?
Technology will power the economy of the 21st century and it should also power the political system of the 21st century. This new technology can mean on-line voter registration programs and pilot on-line voting programs, so that anyone can register to vote at any time of day or night from a home computer. And they will be able to do it as easily as they now conduct myriad complex business and personal transactions every day.
Everyone should be able to find their local polling place and local ballot issues and candidate races by logging on to the Internet. Already this is being done -- some privately run sites are presently offering this information on a regional basis. As secretary of state, I want to make sure that each county in this greatly diverse state of ours is given the technical resources and expertise they need to offer this service to every voter in the state.
And just as we should take advantage of changes in technology, we should alter our election system to address the changes in peopleís lifestyles. More single mothers and women with children are working than ever before, and more families are relying on two wage earners to make ends meet. But right now, because of simple time constraints, a mother who works all day and then takes her child to evening soccer practice is effectively eliminated from the political process. And if the family decides that dad should take the kids to soccer, then he is eliminated from the political process.
Just because people are hurrying to make ends meet doesnít mean that they should be politically underrepresented. Letís incorporate the good ideas from all over the country to get the job done. Letís catch-up with Texas and hold multi-day elections, so that people have a several days-- instead of just one-- to make it to the polls. Letís catch-up with Wisconsin and Maine and implement same-day registration so that people can register to vote on election day. Letís open up permanent absent voter status so that others besides the elderly and disabled are able to share the benefits of this program.
You know, people always ask me why they should care about the secretary of state's office. They should care because there is so much we can be doing and because the very future of our state an of our nation depends on our actions.
Women should make no mistake: when they are politically underrepresented, their fundamental rights are at risk. When working families are politically underrepresented, so is the security of their jobs and the safety of their working conditions. When young people don't bother to register because they think the voting age is 21, it means that the very future of our nation is at risk. And when members of ethnic minorities are unfairly scrutinized for their registration and voting eligibility, it draws strength from what we can become as a nation and as a state.
I feel there is a very clear choice in this election. For the past three years, this office has been used for the benefit of a political party. I believe that the office should be used for the benefit of the political process. Others want to erect barriers in pursuit of a cynical political agenda. I believe in knocking down those walls that keep those millions of people in Little California from having their voices heard.
With your help, we can make it happen.
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