On Nov. 6, millions of us will show up to make our voices heard at the ballot box. In California, voters overwhelmingly support President Barack Obama’s vision for moving this country forward and are working hard to ensure that he gets four more years in the White House to build on the historic protections he has won for the middle class.

But we cannot afford to become complacent: the same middle class is under threat here in California. The outcome of two statewide ballot initiatives, Propositions 30 and 32, will have tremendous implications for our state’s promise of quality public education, safe neighborhoods and the right of working Californians to have an equal say in the political process.

As a community, we need to educate, motivate and participate to pass Prop. 30 and defeat Prop. 32–not only because our children’s futures and our political voice are at stake, but because our proud heritage of civic engagement compels us to do so.

Prop. 30 will make sure that every Californian pays their fair share by requiring the wealthy to pay a little more to prevent devastating budget cuts to our schools and our public safety services. If we do not pass Prop. 30, schools will face $6 billion in cuts, forcing them to shorten the school year, lay off thousands more teachers and increase class sizes. It should come as no surprise that these cuts would be especially devastating to African American children, whose educational resources we need to grow exponentially, not let wither because the most privileged among us cannot be bothered to invest in our future.

Prop. 32 is a thinly veiled attempt by special interests to silence the voice of working Californians. It would prohibit unions from using employee payroll contributions to participate in the political process, effectively allowing corporations to drown out organized labor. Tens of thousands of African Americans in our state are proud union members; if Prop. 32 passes, their collective voice would be virtually silenced overnight.

In a race this tight, African American voter turnout will be key.

I am asking you to vote on Nov. 6-not only to give President Obama a second term, but to stand up for hard-working Californians who are being threatened by corporate special interests.
Why vote?

Because we have a responsibility to safeguard the promise of California for our children and grandchildren.

Because in 2008 we stood up and said, “YES WE CAN!” And we did.
Today, we rise together to say, “NOW WE MUST!”
Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas is the founder of the African American Voter REP Project.

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