Count Every Californian: Secretary of State Alex Padilla on local civic engagement

“Be a chatterbox,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, during an April visit to Silicon Valley Community Foundation to discuss the importance of local civic engagement and the need for participation. “Text your friends, your family, your neighbors and remind them all to participate in the census.”

Padilla was recently named Chair of California’s Complete Count Committee by Governor Gavin Newsom and he explained the importance he places on his role in working toward a complete count: “The stakes this time are much, much higher. Census participation is not political in the partisan sense. It’s required by the constitution. It requires a population count, it couldn’t be more clear.” Secretary Padilla was sworn in as Secretary of State in January 2015, becoming the first ever Latino elected to the position. His parents emigrated to the United States from Mexico.

To support an accurate 2020 Census count, SVCF is engaging in advocacy and grantmaking to Bay Area nonprofits as part of the Bay Area Census Funders Collaborative. Our Census RFP is open through May 31 and we hope to raise at least $1 million in 2019 to support a complete count. SVCF also believes that a healthy democracy is dependent upon all community members being able to participate in the public policy process and having influence over the decisions that impact their lives. We have actively supported through research and grantmaking the transition to a new election system in California under Secretary Padilla's leadership.

During the meeting with Secretary Padilla, leaders from two local nonprofits, Camille Llanes-Fontanilla, Executive Director of SOMOS Mayfair, and Aarti Kohli, Executive Director of AAAJ- Asian Law Caucus, also shared insights and learnings from their ongoing work to encourage participation in the 2020 census specifically, and civic life in Silicon Valley more broadly.

“Trust is essential and dialogue is essential,” said Kohli about the Asian Law Caucus’s work in response to community fear around the proposed census citizenship question.

Collaboration between foundations, government, nonprofits and community leaders will continue to be crucial as we move toward the 2020 census and future elections.

“We look to the foundation world for partnership and leadership,” said Secretary Padilla. In conversation with SVCF CEO Nicole Taylor, he also shared his thoughts on the Voter’s Choice Act (VCA) and how it improves voter turnout by providing voters with more days and more ways to vote. Eleven California counties including San Mateo and Santa Clara have adopted the VCA for the 2020 election. "[The VCA] is not just a good idea that we hope works. We've seen it work," Padilla said. 

“We were pleased to have California Secretary of State Alex Padilla rally our Silicon Valley community to participate in local civic engagement programs in 2020,” said Jack Mahoney, SVCF’s civic participation program officer. “With the Presidential election, a transition to a new voting system and the decennial census count all coming together in a few short months, it is critical that we get all hands on deck. Secretary Padilla is a critical ally for SVCF as the public face of California's election reforms and as the Chair of the California Complete Count Committee.“

If you'd like to support SVCF’s 2020 census work, please email Census resources and RFP details can be found at We will post the list of organizations receiving census-related grant funding on this page in August.