California Lawyers Association

Tuning Into Civics Engagement this Election Season

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February 2020

Multicultural voters putting ballots in voting boxes

By President Emilio Varanini and
Chairman of the Board of Representatives Howard “Chip” Wilkins

With the Iowa Caucuses officially kicking off the 2020 presidential election season, many of our clients, colleagues and friends will be turning their attention to politics and asking themselves important questions about the future of our country. 

For some people, the act of voting once every four years might represent the extent of their civics engagement.

As attorneys who deal with the laws created by our elected officials every day, we know that to be truly involved in a democracy means more than simply casting a vote once every four years. Throughout the year, in our professional lives and as members of this statewide organization, we engage in important conversations about the law with our partners in the judicial branch, and with members of the legislative and executive branches. We do this with the goal of making sure that the laws are working well for our clients and for the members of our communities. 

But we also recognize that for our democracy to function well, everyone needs to play a part. Our clients, our children and our neighbors all must be involved in civics engagement. But what does civics engagement mean? 

It doesn’t mean sharing the latest outrageous political meme making the rounds on social media. True civics engagement means actively trying to improve the communities we live in. It means making an effort to understand our democracy and our political process so we can make a positive impact on the quality of life of our citizens.

One of CLA’s top priorities is to help increase the civic awareness, knowledge and engagement of all Californians. We’re proud to support this key initiative of California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye and her Power of Democracy campaign. Our Civics Engagement and Outreach Committee, chaired by Jerrilyn Malana, facilitates this effort in cooperation with our Sections.

We invite you to get involved in this fun and important effort. There are numerous ways to take part, at the K-12 level or in your communities. For example, we’re creating a toolkit to help commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, which will be available for Law Day on May 1. For more information about the story of suffrage in our state, check out the digital exhibit created by the California State Archives: “On the Road to Ratification: California and the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage.”

Another way we’re promoting civic engagement is by offering our members the opportunity to meet directly with lawmakers in Sacramento. If you’d like to take part in our Second Annual Legislative Day on March 4, sign up here for your free tickets.

To learn more about CLA’s civics engagement activities, or volunteer for one of our civics engagement projects, please reach out to us via Director of Strategic Partnerships and Initiatives Ellen Miller at 

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