Concerns over election integrity drew about 150 people to march from Downtown Santa Cruz to the County Clerk’s Office on Nov. 4.
“Honestly, people across the political spectrum, in all sorts of jobs, are concerned about what could happen if election results aren’t respected,” said Lighthouse Collective organizer Marian Jenkins. “This is not a fringe demand we are making. People vote thinking it will count.”
The Lighthouse Collective is a non-partisan group, and their only focus is maintaining the integrity of U.S. democracy. The organization is made up of Santa Cruz locals who felt they needed to take action when President Trump began declaring he may not peacefully transfer power if he loses the election.
Demanding that every vote be counted before declaring a winner was not isolated to voters. Activists under the voting age also turned out in solidarity.
“Today, we’re here to pressure local and national officials to sign a pledge to count every vote, and not [elect] a president until that happens,” said Autumn, a sophomore at Santa Cruz High School and an organizer for the Lighthouse Collective.
The rally began at 4 p.m. at the Santa Cruz Clock Tower, which has hosted activist movements in the city for decades. The tower now dons Black Lives Matter posters and tributes to victims of police brutality, as well as an altar in honor of Día de Muertos.
Prior to the march, volunteers and members of the collective gathered at the tower with signs reading “Count Every Vote.”
At 4:15 p.m. the crowd marched down Pacific Avenue, chanting “Count the vote, stop the coup.” The group looped around to stop at the Black Lives Matter installation in front of Santa Cruz City Hall.
Angela Marshall, a member of a grassroots political movement focused on electing progressive candidates called Indivisible, was there with other members of the movement in neon green vests, directing traffic and providing crowd control.
“We’re out today because the election was so close, and Trump went out on TV yesterday and told people not to vote,” Marshall said. “That’s not OK. We’re protecting democracy, we’re standing up, we know that all the votes need to be counted. We need to get this monster down and out.”
The group continued down Front Street with Santa Cruz Police halting traffic and directing the crowd toward Water Street, where they reached their endpoint at the Santa Cruz County Clerk’s Office at 4:45 p.m.
Santa Cruz High School student Tamarah Minami was at the front of the march, guiding the crowd through downtown and leading chants through a bullhorn.
“I want to make sure that in four years, when I can vote, our system is still democratic, and that I even have a chance to vote,” said Minami. “I think a big part of that is making sure that whoever wins right now wins democratically. Otherwise, the whole system kind of unravels.”
On the steps of the County Clerk’s Office, members of various organizations spoke alongside the Lighthouse Collective.
“It shouldn’t have to be said, but it does. Count every vote. Every vote must be counted,” said Sarah Mason, a member of the Santa Cruz chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. “And we need to be prepared to shut down our workplaces, and to fill the streets, until they are.”
Others, such as UC-AFT member and UCSC lecturer Josh Brahinsky and Jack Tracy from Veterans of Foreign Wars’ Santa Cruz chapter, spoke and led chants until the rally’s conclusion at 5:25 p.m.
When asked how we can protect our rights to have our votes counted, activist Elise Casby noted that in order to retain that right, we must first exercise it.
“The question for me is, are we going to have a future? And if we are, it means that we are going to see citizens get involved in protecting our civil rights, especially a right to vote,” Casby said. “That’s just the most fundamental and basic thing. It’s like getting up and learning to walk or breathing. It’s so fundamental.”