Isla Vista is my home. I grew up here and I started politically organizing in this community when I was 17 years old. I’ve dedicated my entire adult life to engaging Isla Vista in its own governance and future so any attempt at disenfranchising or intimidating Isla Vistans from participating in the decisions that affect our home makes me angry.
You would think that making it easier for citizens to vote would be something for everyone in a democracy to celebrate, Democrats and Republicans. But not everyone is on board with this fundamental principal of democracy. Most certainly not Bruce Porter, candidate for 3rd District Supervisor. From his choice of staff, I am now afraid that Bruce Porter, who wants to represent you as 3rd District Supervisor, won’t protect your voting rights and would prefer you don’t vote at all.
In 2008 Conservative candidate Steve Pappas lost to Supervisor Doreen Farr in the race for 3rd District supervisor by 806 votes out of more than 35,000 cast. His “personal assistant” Terry Baxter, managed his campaign in UCSB/Isla Vista. Based on their perception that he performed better in UCSB/Isla Vista precincts (despite losing by a 2:1 ratio), they demanded a costly recount.
They gained only ONE vote in the recount, so they sued to have ALL 9,700 UCSB/Isla Vista votes tossed out, claiming that mass voter registration and voter fraud had occurred. Pappas and Baxter lost. And then they appealed, again and again, but they never produced a single piece of evidence proving voter fraud. Supervisor Farr successfully defended all the way up to the Supreme Court our right to vote here. In the end Pappas and Baxter lost every single court challenge. The trial judge wrote that this case was, “frivolous and tantamount to an intentional misleading of the Court.” The Santa Ynez Valley News declared this case was, “a legal farce.”
Now it’s 2016 and the same Terry Baxter is back, recently hired by Bruce Porter who’s, running for 3rd District Supervisor against Joan Hartmann. And under the guise of “voter privacy” Baxter is now leading Porter’s effort to stop students from registering and voting. The fact that Porter hired Baxter is proof that he doesn’t have any intention of truly listening and supporting the people he is running to represent.
Baxter’s main tactic is distributing written warnings and publishing ads telling students that simply the act of registering to vote risks voters’ privacy. This is ironic since she is the same person who in 2009 subpoenaed UCSB for ALL student enrollment records, including, their names, address and citizenship status. She is also encouraging students to register back “home,” as if Isla Vista is not our home.
As a long-standing community organizer in Isla Vista, I know that attempting to deprive students of their voting rights is an old and dishonored tradition. However Pappas, Baxter and now Porter have taken this gutter practice to new lows. Truth is, fraud in registration and in voting is nearly nonexistent in the U.S. and it’s nonexistent here. That’s what judge after judge said in ruling against Baxter and her crew. And that’s still the case. With their unfounded calls encouraging students to register “back home” and not to trust convenient, local registration drives, Bruce Porter and Terry Baxter are not trying to protect your privacy. They are trying to keep you from voting. It’s disingenuous and fundamentally un-American. These are politically motivated tactics aimed at depriving young people of your constitutional right to vote where you live. Don’t fall for it.
Das Williams is an assemblymember representing the 37th District of California, which includes Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Williams is a University of California, Santa Barbara alumnus.