Each year, thousands of Californians register to vote. For Chuck Levin, this simple task became a lifelong passion 42 years ago.
When Levin became eligible to vote as a 21-year-old in 1968, he anxiously headed into Westwood to register. At the time, citizens could not submit their own registration, but instead had to register with a deputy voter registrar. This experience led Levin to develop a respect for the registration voting process that he never forgot.
“The whole idea of a great democracy rests on the participation of the citizens and their constant willingness to vote in every single election,” he said.
Shortly after registering, Levin headed to the County of Los Angeles Registrar of Voters and underwent the training to become a deputy voter registrar. He has not stopped registering citizens to vote since. Levin has registered more than 12,000 voters since 1968.
Levin has focused much of his registration endeavors in Westwood Village, and Stan’s Donuts has been one of his primary locations. For Levin, a Westwood native, Stan’s had been one of his high school hangouts since it opened in 1965.
While Levin’s efforts now extend well beyond Westwood, he still frequents the donut shop every Wednesday from 5 to 7 p.m. According to Levin, Stan’s is the perfect place to set up a registration table because it is located in the center of Westwood and attracts numerous people.
Persistence and passion run in the Levin family. In the summer of 1973, Levin involved his mother, Sylvia Levin, in his registration efforts. From 1973 until her death in 2009, Sylvia Levin registered more than 47,000 Californians to vote, a statewide and national record.
“The Levin family is the most dedicated group of voter registers in L.A., perhaps in the country,” Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Koretz said.
Koretz has been inspired by Chuck Levin’s dedication and enthusiasm. Koretz, a UCLA alumnus and a longtime colleague of Levin, said Levin inspired him to found the Bruin Democrats club in 1973.
In 1984, Levin created The First Vote Foundation, an organization that encourages Californians to register to vote, especially youth. First Vote, which still exists today, regularly visits campuses and events to register voters.
“We want everyone to take advantage of the opportunity to vote,” Levin said. “We want it to become a lifelong habit.”
Levin met “Baywatch” actress Alexandra Paul while registering people to vote on behalf of the Clean Water Caravan, a group lobbying for the Clean Water Act in the 1986 election.
In 1988, Paul began to join Levin every Friday night to register voters outside of Canter’s Deli in Hollywood. In the late 1990s, the two moved their weekly session to Wednesday nights at Stan’s Donuts. This meeting still stands.
“Chuck has taught me that if you do something consistently over time, you will really make a difference,” Paul said.
Stan Berman, owner of Stan’s, has always been supportive of these Wednesday night meetings. Berman said he recognizes the importance of voting and has provided Levin with tables and chairs in front of his shop. Levin and Berman have developed a pleasant friendship over their long history.
“He keeps me abreast to a lot of things that are going on,” Berman said. “As a small-businessman trying to get something done, he always knows who to talk to. He can always help.”
Levin’s dedication stems from his respect and passion for the vote. In California, 17 million of the 23.5 million eligible adults are registered to vote. Levin said his mission is to register the remaining 6.5 million.