Editorial Note: This posting can also be read in Spanish.

Voting is personal for me. When my family fled a brutal civil war in Nicaragua, my parents sought safety and a better life for us in America. I am proud to be an American citizen. For nearly three decades, I’ve stood up for social justice and workers’ rights so that we can all benefit from the American dream.

This election season, I’m standing stronger to protect the American dream from a President who believes that voices like mine don’t matter. Our nation has watched him divide us and turn back the clock. We must defeat his views, and we can do it by voting.

Voting is one of the most important ways to stand up for our rights. It is our job to make sure we choose good leaders who will fight with us. We can choose people who will stand up to corporate greed, who will look at health care as a human right, who will protect our environment, and who support women’s rights and equal pay. We need leaders who will prioritize mental health in our schools, and who will find real solutions to end homelessness. If we don’t vote, someone else will – and they may vote against these values.

As Co-President of UNITE-HERE Local 11, I frequently witness the importance of voting. When we elect leaders who support health care and a fair wage for instance, our members can spend less time on drawn-out bargaining for those things, and more time organizing the unorganized.

As Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, I have witnessed incredible community leaders rise up. Leaders like Sergio Contreras and Ashleigh Aitken for the Orange County Board of Supervisors, as well as Beckie Gomez and Andy Thorburn for the Orange County Board of Education, deserve your vote. The OC Board of Supervisors and OC Board of Education elections will be decided in our March Primaries, so it’s especially important to vote all the way down the ballot.

California is now an early “Super Tuesday” state, which means California voters have a big voice in the Presidential primaries. Each vote could mean a crucial difference in delegate counts for each candidate, so it’s especially important to make your voice heard and vote. Democrats have a big decision to make, and in November, we must come together around our nominee for one of the most important Presidential elections of our lifetimes.

In Orange County it’s especially important to vote, because many local elections could come down to just a few votes. Orange County Democrats remember the 2018 Midterms, when several Democratic Congressional candidates were down in the polls on election night. It took weeks to finish counting all the ballots. By the end, Democrats swept all of Orange County’s Congressional seats, but some by very close margins. We must vote all the way down the ballot.

More and more, Orange County voters are choosing the Democratic Party. In the six months since Orange County Democrats overtook Republicans in voter registration, Democrats have amassed a stunning 22,000 voter registration lead. Assembly District 55 and the cities of Westminster, Aliso Viejo, Cypress and Costa Mesa all flipped blue recently, and have more registered Democrats than Republicans. Voters are making their values clear, and Orange County leaders need to pay attention.

Despite Orange County’s rapid rise in Democratic Party voter registration, Democrats continue to lag in elected representation. A whopping 70% of all elected offices in OC are held by registered Republican voters. This year, we have an unprecedented opportunity to transform our representation in Orange County. Your vote is the only way to make that happen.

Make your plan to vote. Mail in your vote-by-mail ballot (you don’t need a stamp), or visit any of Orange County’s nearly 200 vote centers to cast your vote in person until March 3rd.

Vote Centers open on February 22nd and will be open on weekends, early in the morning, and into the evening. You can even register and vote same-day at a Vote Center. If you’re a registered No Party Preference (independent) voter, you can now change your party registration to participate in the Democratic Presidential Primary at a Vote Center. Find a Vote Center and learn more at ​www.ocvote.com​, and find a list of endorsed Democratic Party candidates at http://orangecountydemocrats.com/endorsements/​.

We recently hosted a ballot party for hotel workers in Anaheim, where we taught new U.S. citizens how to cast a ballot. I’m inspired by our attendees, including UNITE-HERE Local 11 member Juan Parra, a new U.S. citizen who was unable to vote in the 2016 Presidential election. He said he’s voting with our nation’s undocumented youth in his heart. He wants to uplift Latino communities, and give voice to those who don’t have this important Democratic right.

Whatever your top issue may be — healthcare, prescription drug costs, housing costs, homelessness services, ethics and transparency, or immigration reform — your vote is your voice. In the March 3rd Primary, your voice is needed more than ever. Vote.

Ada Brice​ñ​o is Chair of the Democratic Party of Orange County, serving more than 580,950 registered Democratic voters; Co-President of UNITE-HERE Local 11, representing 32,000 workers; and Board President of OCCORD, Orange County Communities Organizing for Responsible Development.

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