Updated Oct. 16, 3:33 a.m.–
In a year when many voters are expressing frustration at national politics, one local couple has decided to break their 16-year habit of not voting and will be casting ballots in this year’s election. But it wasn’t the presidential race that inspired them to vote — it was local politics and issues.
“If it was just Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, we wouldn’t be voting,” said Christine Stein in an interview this week with The Sentinel. She said a local candidate, as well as statewide propositions on the ballot, drove her and her husband Dave to vote this year.
Asked why she stopped voting after casting a ballot in the 2000 election, 34-year-old Christine said she became too busy with life as an engineer and an internet marketer, and “cared about myself more than I cared about anything.”
“I just felt really apathetic,” added Dave, 36, sharing why he stopped voting more than a decade ago. “After the 2000 election I was disappointed with the results and I just didn’t feel like my vote counted for anything.”
The couple shared that their perspective began to change after the two got more involved locally with outreach to the needy through Saint Vincent De Paul several years ago. Christine also got involved with the city’s History and Arts Commission and began to learn more about Citrus Heights after moving to the city in 2014.
The catalyst that drove them to register to vote however was hearing Sue Frost, a Citrus Heights councilwoman running for a county supervisor seat, give a brief speech last month at a neighborhood meeting on why she was running for office.
“I think it was the first time we actually believed in something,” said Christine, highlighting Frost’s past involvement in the Homeless Assistance Resource Team. “This year we believe that somebody like Sue Frost can really change things in our area.”
Christine said she was previously aware of Frost’s involvement in the community, but was so disconnected politically that she didn’t know Frost was running for supervisor until that night. Following the meeting, she said “we registered to vote that night.”
A flurry of change
Since that meeting two weeks ago, the pair have undergone a transformation from apathetic non-voters, to well-informed voters. The couple have also found they agree on more issues than they initially thought, despite Dave leaning to the left politically and Christine identifying more as libertarian-Republican.
“After we got married, we just didn’t talk about politics,” said Christine with a chuckle, recalling past arguments. “It’s kind of hard to be married to someone who’s on the opposite side of you — so we just didn’t talk about it.”
But now, they’re talking about politics all the time — and by focusing on local issues and ballot propositions, they’ve discovered more areas of agreement than disagreement.
The ballot initiatives
“There’s a lot of ballot initiatives out there this year that actually are pretty important,” said Dave, referring to the 17 propositions up for a vote this year. “We did some research into it and found that even though we do come from very different sides of the political perspective, we actually do agree on a lot of the ballot measures out there.”
“All but three of them,” Christine interjected. “We’re mostly aligned with everything.”
The pair highlighted Proposition 57 as an example of their agreement, a ballot initiative that would increase chances of parole for certain felons.
“That’s a completely Republican stance and my husband, who’s a Democrat, agrees with me that we don’t want felons to come out of jail soon,” said Christine.
Dave added that although he supports a need for some kind of prison reform, he felt the proposition was “poorly written,” citing the definitions involved in what the proposition considers a “non-violent crime.”
Money and political ads
The two also expressed concern about special interest money involved in campaigns. After researching ballot measures, Christine called it “eye-opening” to learn how much money was involved in various propositions, which is something Dave expressed concern about as well.
“Those with the most amount of money seem to make the most progress,” said Dave. “I don’t really feel like that supports democracy very well, to have money be able to sway the vote of the people so easily.”
The pair expressed frustration sifting through political mailers and ads, many of which they said use “fear tactics” and are “completely manipulative” and often have “straight lies.”
“No wonder people are turned off by voting,” said Christine, referring to political ads. In contrast, she said they’ve found the Secretary of State’s website to be a reliable source for information on the funding of campaigns and reading about the propositions.
National versus local politics
Although Christine said she will be voting in the presidential election, she called national politics more of “infotainment” this year and said she’s focusing locally where she feels more of a difference can be made.
“I care more about the local measures that are being passed instead of national, because we have more of a voice in what’s happening locally,” said Christine.
Dave, who works as an auto insurance claims adjuster, said he’s likewise frustrated at national politics and said he views the two party system as “a failure.” When registering to vote last month, he chose to register as “undecided” rather than a Democrat.
>>Register to vote online: registertovote.ca.gov
“Really, party affiliation in this country shouldn’t make any difference,” said Dave. “You should vote for your conscience; vote for what you believe in.”
He recalled not always thinking this way, focusing on the national political scene back in 2000 and not really caring about local issues.
“As far as I knew there was nothing involving any issues that directly impacted me,” said Dave. “Back then I think it was mostly selfish voting — I wanted to do what I thought would affect me the most and I felt like the national level would impact me more than the state level at that time.”
Asked how county and city-level politics affect him personally, Dave said they impact the “most important areas of our daily lives,” like public safety, job creation, roads, and civic improvements.
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“The races to ensure that we have the right people in those positions are very important because those are the people who will steer our city in the right direction or not,” said Dave. He also mentioned decisions made by local leaders can serve as an example for other cities or counties to follow and said local leaders will often move up to higher positions.
Reflecting on the past two weeks of change since registering to vote, Christine said with a smile, “We’ve been married for nine years — we have little to talk about any more.”
“This has brought so much (discussion) home and it’s opened a new world to us that we’re so interested in now,” said Christine. “I don’t think we’re going to stop.”
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In a year when many voters are expressing frustration at national politics, one local couple has decided to break their 16-year habit of not voting and will be casting ballots in this year's election. But it wasn't the presidential race that inspired them to vote -- it was local politics and issues.
“If it was just Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, we wouldn't be voting," said Christine Stein in an interview this week with The Sentinel. She said a local candidate, as well as statewide propositions on the ballot...
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