By Genoa Barrow | OBSERVER Senior Staff Writer

Dr. Shirley N. Weber recently visited Grant High to educate young people about voting and the election process. Robert Maryland, OBSERVER.

Students at Grant Union High School recently got a valuable lesson in adulting.

Seniors and juniors participated in a mock election, complete with ballots and voting booths. The election “proctor” was none other than Dr. Shirley N. Weber, the state’s chief elections officer.

As California’s first Black secretary of state, Dr. Weber urges people of color to use their right to vote and the power to decide the state’s future. She joined the Sacramento County Department of Voter Registration and Elections for the mock election, which is part of the department’s annual outreach to educate students about the voting process and to pre-register 16- and 17-year-olds to vote. 

Dr. Weber said she learned about the power of voting up close and personal. Her father was a sharecropper and many of her elder relatives never got the chance to vote. Her family talked about voting regularly and even opened their South Los Angeles home as a polling place. Seeing her parents actively involved influenced her and her siblings, she said.

“There were eight of us and we all voted,” Dr. Weber said.

“There’s a power in voting, and I keep emphasizing that to young people,” Dr. Weber said later in accepting a leadership award from Greater Sacramento WIN (Women in the NAACP).

“I tell young people everywhere I go, there’s a basic principle of democracy: everybody gets one vote,” Dr. Weber said. “You get one vote. I am the secretary of state; I get one vote. The governor gets one vote. The president gets one vote.

The mock election helps students begin thinking about their right and responsibility to vote and make decisions that impact the city, county, state and nation. Robert Maryland, OBSERVER. 

“That’s a powerful equalizer. Don’t give up your power.”

When people don’t vote, she continued, they empower someone else’s and the result can be detrimental.

“We have to make sure that all of us register, all of us show up to vote. It doesn’t matter what obstacles they put in our way. We will overcome them,” Dr. Weber said.

June marks Dr. Weber’s first time on the ballot as secretary of state. She was appointed to the position by Gov. Gavin Newsom last year. She succeeded Alex Padilla, who replaced Kamala Harris as a U.S. senator when she was elected vice president.

The deadline to register for the June 7 primary is May 23. Same-day registration and provisional ballots also are available at voting centers that open and run locally May 24-June 7.