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LWVO Honors Ernestine Nettles: A "Good Trouble" Advocate

by Sandy Venning

In honor of LWVO’s Centennial, we are documenting our past with interviews, archival excavations, and blogs. See LWVO Celebrates One Hundred Years of Community Service; LWVO 1924-2024; Celebrating LWVO Life Member Mary Strauss; Meet Bonnie Hamlin, a Volunteer in a League of Her Own.

Ernestine Nettles is a lifelong Oakland resident who lives in the West Oakland home she grew up in and holds the values her parents instilled in her – values that attracted her to the work that the League of Women Voters exemplifies. She has a passion for equity and equality, and sees the power of the vote as an essential part of a democracy that is still striving to live up to its founding creed, that all men – and women – are created equal. 

Even in elementary school, she got into “good trouble” for standing up for what she believed. Years ago she spoke out against the Vietnam War, rallied for a girl’s right to wear pants in school, and pushed for getting 18-year-olds the right to vote. Indeed, a thread that weaves consistently through her life is her advocacy for voting, because voting is our voice. Without that voice, nothing we hope to achieve can be attained. 

Ernestine joined the League over 12 years ago because she had observed the positions we take across the city and nation and felt a strong connection to the cause, especially voting rights and getting people out to vote. “They seemed to be on the right side of most pieces of legislation,” she said. “That’s what drew me to the League. The League does not endorse or oppose candidates. Too often, we get caught up in candidates and forget that the substance of legislation is what leaves a lasting mark on our lives.”

She interned with former Congressman Ron Dellums, and later worked with civil rights leader JT Johnson to promote non-violent political activism, empowerment of women, and the power of the vote.  She is also inspired by her parents, who came to the Bay Area as part of the Great Migration. All these experiences have led her to treasure the fundamental right to vote and to never take it for granted.

For years she was active with voter education, particularly through the League's candidate forums. She joined the Board several years ago. Ernestine is now the LWVO nominee for president for 2024-26, the first African American to hold the position. The membership will vote on the slate of officers at the annual meeting June 22, 2024. 


Ernestine has a BA and a MA in Human Resources and Public Administration. She has received awards for her advocacy and volunteerism. For many years she has served our city as a Contracts and Compliance Officer.

Among the issues that Ernestine hopes to address as president are:

  • Better voter education. For example, after Oakland adopted ranked choice voting, over 19,000 ballots were disregarded because of voter error.  The League can advocate for and provide better voter education around ranked choice voting. 

  • More partnerships between the League and other nonprofit organizations. Ernestine would like to use her many connections to various civic and equity centered organizations to foster more cooperative efforts between community groups and the League.

  • Increased diversity in the League. For a city with a strong Black history and presence, the percentage of Black members in the Oakland League is low. Ernestine is eager to use her position to build membership in the League that reflects our dynamic city. This also means attracting young people, other minorities, and men. 

LWVO looks forward to having the benefit of Ernestine's leadership, energy and perspective as we begin our new century.


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