October 31, 2016

On A Complicated, Exciting Voting System

Emily Lai,
APANO Member and Volunteer

I am voting for the first time this year. Yay! I didn't always feel comfortable or knowledgeable about voting, elections, and politics. Thanks to APANO, ALLY, and coalition partners like Western States Center I developed an understanding of how our lives are deeply connected to ballot measures, policies, and politicians.

For me, voting is sacred because our ancestors fought and died for it. Voting is sacred because my parents crossed an ocean for me to have this birthright. Voting is sacred because it mobilizes over 100 million people to influence the U.S. political system -which has tremendous influence over the world.

With that said, our voting system is complicated because it is exclusive; more than one third of people living in the U.S. are not eligible to vote. Our voting system is complicated because 18th century slave owners who didn't think that people of color or women should have a say in politics designed it. Our voting system is complicated because of those 100 million eligible voters, they are mostly white, older, and formally educated. Our voting system is complicated because people with more money have more influence. Many changes have been made to this system, but many things remain the same.

But I am excited to vote this year - especially for ballot measures like Measure 97. Measure 97 raises the current tax rate for class C corporations making more than $25 million in sales from 0.001% to 2.5%. Additionally, this measure will allow Oregon to avoid a $1.4 billion budget deficit, and generate $3 billion in state revenue annually. This measure addresses the decades of disinvestment that have plagued our school, healthcare, and social services system with both short term and long term sustainable fixes.

It is not coincidence that Oregon has the lowest corporate tax burden in the U.S. and also one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the U.S. The connection? Many, if not most, states rely on corporate tax revenue to help fund their public education and services. Currently, corporate tax revenue makes up only 6.4% of Oregon's funding for public education & services. However, income tax revenue makes up 85% of education and services funding. That, to me, is unacceptable because of the low wages these corporations pay Oregonians and the high profits they make off of Oregonians.

I say all these things because I think, while voting is sacred and exciting, we should remember that there is still a lot of change that needs to happen.

We believe that we need to adequately fund K-12 education, healthcare and senior services. We also recognize that Measure 97 is one critical part in making sure these areas are properly funded, all of which have effects on our communities for the better.

Thanks to APANO I see myself playing a part in local and state politics. I am deeply grateful to APANO not just for inspiring us to vote, but making sure we feel knowledgeable and confident about our vote.

Click here to get APANO's voter guides, and learn more about Measure 97!