West Marin grapples with heavy election

David Briggs
Valley residents turned out strongest on Election Day at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center compared to the previous three days, when the voting center was open for casting ballots.  

Regardless of the outcome of the 2020 presidential election, many West Marin residents are disturbed that the race is even close. What they hoped would be an overwhelming rebuke of President Donald Trump’s regime is instead a tight contest, and ballot counting in battleground states continues. By Wednesday evening, neither candidate had secured the 270 electoral college votes needed for victory.

As usual, West Marin voted overwhelming blue: Joe Biden has received 3,702 votes and President Trump has received 380 votes, with 57 percent of ballots counted countywide.

Latino residents have been especially on edge this election cycle, concerned with the president’s anti-immigration agenda and threats to safety-net services. At the West Marin Community Services resource center, employees are seeing anxiety, fear and confusion in the people they serve. 

“At this point, it’s mainly psychological,” executive director Socorro Romo said. “This group is very concerned about the outcome.”

The resource center has helped many clients navigate voting for the first time this year, including one family who became citizens in order to do so. It’s been a confusing process for new voters, who had questions about how to register and where to bring their ballot, food pantry manager Alma Sanchez said.

Young Latinos have been driving the surge in participation and a handful of homeless residents also showed up with questions. For them, fears that services like the food pantry would see less federal support outweighed a distrust of civic processes, Ms. Romo said.

The resource center serves many undocumented residents who resisted sharing personal information as the election approached. There was a dip in requests for CalFresh food benefits and rental assistance in the last month, and it was harder for employees to convince residents to fill out the 2020 census as the deadline neared. “I had families who said, ‘No, the election is coming, and we don’t want our information to go to any government agency,’” Ms. Romo said.

Political organizer Carol Whitman has been working tirelessly this year to get out the vote. She trained over 75 people in phone banking, and her group Indivisible West Marin has called tens of thousands of voters in battleground states since March. She joined a rally in downtown Point Reyes Station on Wednesday to advocate that all votes be counted.

“I’m disappointed in this country that [President Trump] is still so popular after being such a fomenter of hate,” she said. “It’s really hard, but I also know that it’s not over yet. It’s going to be a big fight, and we’re all going to have to live with this anxious ambiguity for a while.”

Rev. Vincent Pizzuto, a progressive priest at St. Columba’s Episcopal Church, echoed the sentiment. He told his congregation that although a win for Joe Biden won’t resolve pressing issues like climate change and systemic racism, his platform would provide a much stronger basis for the United States to collectively address these problems.

“I’m deeply discouraged that after four years of the country’s descent into madness that we didn’t see a national referendum on the way in which [President Trump] dragged the dignity of the presidency to the dredges,” he said. “What I was hoping for, naively, was not an election that falls along party lines, but that human decency would show.”

While the presidential race is a critical contest for the nation’s future, the general election in West Marin was relatively mellow this year. No school, fire or water board seats were up for grabs because candidates filed without opposition, and only Measure L, a $212 per-parcel tax to fund the Shoreline Unified School District, faced voters on the coast.

Measure L passed overwhelmingly, with 73 percent of the vote so far. The district has a long history of community support: The original parcel tax was passed in 1984, one of the first districts in California to use that funding mechanism. Since then, it’s been renewed without fail, and this year, it received the highest yes vote percentage of any school finance measure in Marin and Sonoma Counties.

“We so appreciate the trust that our voters have placed in us to continue to spend these funds wisely, to improve our instructional program for our students,” Superintendent Bob Raines said.