What we found:

While there are certainly significant race-based disparities in political participation in California, in our data, they generally appear smaller than the disparities in other issue areas. California has seen sustained efforts by organizers to increase democratic participation by communities of color, including campaigns to register and mobilize voters of color and increase census participation, which have begun to turn the tide and show the path by which equity gains may be realized and, eventually, locked in. There is no cause for complacency, however, because the remaining disparities within democratic participation are real, and uniquely dangerous because political power is necessary to address all other disparities. The indicators where disparities persist are among the most consequential.


Why this issue matters for racial equity?

Prior to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states used policies such as poll taxes and literacy tests to prevent Blacks from voting. Even after the voting barriers of the Jim Crow era were removed, lawmakers today continue to pursue policies that would discriminate and discourage people of color from voting.


Policy levers:

Community leaders in CA are currently building a new electorate, pushing for policies that empower and shift resources for low-income communities of color and building political power. An important step in improving outcomes on this issue area, is improving the availability of data on this issue. For instance, the indicators available to us center largely on voting, meaning that we have only an incomplete picture of disparities in other forms of political participation. There are also limitations in data availability that mean that our understanding of how disparities in democracy impact Indigenous peoples, Blacks, and other communities of color remains incomplete. Another way we can improve is by increasing political engagement among underrepresented populations on not just voting, but other areas as well. Last, local governments, particularly those in areas with large numbers of people of color should create offices of equity that not only oversee how well or poorly the local jurisdiction is doing on ensuring equity, but that create policies to advance equity within its boundaries.

Key Takeaways

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Significant racial disparities exist in midterm and presidential elections.
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Voter Turnout
The higher voter turnout in presidential elections somewhat narrows the racial disparity in turnout, but not completely.
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Elected Representation
White representation among elected officials is nearly double that of all other races.
05 of 7 key issues


Voting is the primary mode of political participation in the United States and is central to ensuring that elected representatives and statutory initiatives address community needs.

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