“We don’t care how you vote, we care that you vote!” That’s the rallying cry of the Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® in greater Los Angeles, whose board makes voter registration a priority. “No one knows better than REALTORS® that the surest way to make a difference, starting at the local level, is by voting,” says Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh. That’s why the association was proud to have one of its three locations, the Glendora office, serve as a Voting Center over a multi-day period during the recent elections.
For the past several years, the office had been a precinct polling location, which involved a single-day commitment on Election Day itself. But this year, in an effort to make voting more convenient for its citizens, explains Ruh, the State of California authorized the establishment of Voting Centers, which increase voting access throughout a three-day span, and accepts ballots from residents of any part of the county. “We’re a very mobile county,” he says, “and it’s not at all uncommon for people to live in one part of the county and work in another. And it’s a very big county! So, this gives people the flexibility they need: they are no longer limited to a certain assigned polling location, or even to a single day.” In fact, he adds, voters from other counties were welcome to submit absentee ballots at the Voting Center too. “It’s all about removing the barriers and obstacles that can make it inconvenient to perform this basic civic duty. The County and REALTORS® are on the same page, wanting to offer every opportunity for people to vote, and this was a big step forward.”
The Glendora office, he notes, was an ideal location: right on the legendary, well-traveled Route 66, in a spacious and pleasant facility with plenty of parking. “We had the enthusiastic support of CVAR President Helen Moreno and CVAR CEO Mark Epstein, who both immediately saw the value of the Vote Center, so we were able to jump at the opportunity when Los Angeles County began seeking venues. A fairly steady stream of more than 1,100 members of the voting public took advantage of the fact that they could just drop by and vote with the sample ballot they’d received in the mail.” In another progressive step, voters were also offered same-day registration. “REALTORS® loved this aspect,” notes Ruh. “A client just moved to a different district and it’s Election Day? No problem!”
The voting center was staffed by the County Registrar of Voters, and it couldn’t have gone more smoothly, he reports. They brought in privacy barriers and the voting machines, which were like giant computer touch screens; each ballot was also printed with a QR code, enabling voters to fill out a digital ballot on their smartphones in advance, and simply confirm the information at the Voting Center. “You could vote whichever way worked for you; they younger set was definitely voting by phone. The whole system seemed like the trend of the future,” says Ruh, who encourages other associations to become a polling place, for even a single day: “The sense of helping the cause of democracy at the most fundamental level is well worth it.”
REALTORS® were excited by the important role the association was playing, and were very active on social media, encouraging office colleagues to vote — and to get others out. “Many of the people I spoke to in line pointed out that they were connected to one REALTOR® or another through home sales, neighborhood activities, the PTA, Kiwanis, Rotary — you name it. It makes you realize that REALTORS® are everywhere,” concludes Ruh, “and so well positioned to get out the vote.”
To learn more about how the Citrus Valley Association of REALTORS® is promoting civic involvement in Los Angeles, contact Government Affairs Director Bill Ruh at 909-305-2827. Ruh’s own civic engagement is not limited to his work with the REALTORS®: he is also a Councilmember for the City of Montclair, and an appointee of Governor Gavin Newsom to the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board, currently serving as Chair.