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Fully enfranchised

Protect free and fair elections in SLO County

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Women's March San Luis Obispo organizers are deeply alarmed by recent drastic changes to our electoral system. Today we urge each person in our county to show up and speak up for safe, fair, and fully enfranchised elections.

Four years ago during the first Women's March in San Luis Obispo, thousands took to the streets unified in defending a more just and equitable democracy. Since the beginning, this movement has been about creating lasting change. We knew then what we know now—that every single voice makes a difference.

Now, as we watch local elections be purposefully eroded, it's up to each of us to show up and speak up in numbers too large to ignore.

In November 2020, the SLO County Board of Supervisors voted to raise its own campaign limits to almost four times the limit set by the California Legislature, thereby opening local elections to higher limits than even our state representatives.

Next, when presented with the choice to expand voting access, the same Board of Supervisors went the opposite direction, selecting the most restrictive voting model possible for San Luis Obispo County.

Most recently, in tandem with a fringe trend to sow distrust in American democracy, the validity of the San Luis Obispo County 2020 elections results were baselessly challenged. As part of the disinformation campaign, our County Clerk-Recorder Tommy Gong was attacked with hateful, racist, anti-Asian rhetoric. One went as far as to claim Mr. Gong, a third generation American, might be a Chinese Communist. Subsequently, Mr. Gong stepped down and will leave our county.

With the clerk-recorder seat vacant, it's up to the Board of Supervisors to appoint a new official who will plan, implement, and supervise our upcoming San Luis Obispo County elections. It's critically important to make our voices heard in this process. We must make it known that we expect an impartial and apolitical clerk-recorder be appointed.

Ahead of us are urgent issues, such as redistricting, a recall, and a general election, that includes choosing a new clerk-recorder. Each will be incredibly complex and extremely challenging. Together they will have a lasting impact on democracy.

We marched, we organized, we ran, we voted. Now is the time for each and every one of us to defend the cornerstone of our democracy and demand fair elections conducted in a transparent, professional, and nonpartisan manner.

We ask the SLO County Board of Supervisors to unanimously appoint a nonpartisan interim clerk-recorder who will continue to instill confidence in San Luis Obispo County's democratic process. Join this call by reaching out to your city, county, and state representatives. Make sure your voice is heard. A powered-up democracy requires our involvement. Δ

Dawn Addis, Andrea Chmelik, Terry Parry, Pat Harris, Jen Ford, Rita Casaverde, Gail Bunting are Women's March San Luis Obispo organizers. Send comments for publication to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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