Register your vote on Tuesday

Conventional wisdom aside, there is every reason for California Jews to get out the vote on Nov. 5.

On the national level, Jews mirror the general population, which has indicated in every poll that the presidential election is a foregone conclusion.

President Clinton is riding a double-digit wave in polls over Bob Dole, and most voting Jews who are registered Democrats have backed and will continue to back Clinton, a strong pro-Israel president.

Because of the president's wide lead, both Clinton and Dole have largely ignored Jewish voters in campaigning this year.

It's a 180-degree turnabout from the 1992 election, when Clinton's persistent courting of the Jewish vote helped put him in the White House. And it is a switch from last year, when Dole pushed a bill to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But Jews must still flock to the polls, lest either party take our votes for granted.

Jews who back Clinton can send a message that they remain a political force whose votes are earned and not just guaranteed.

Jews who back Dole can help him in a tough fight nationally and especially in California, where every vote for him will count.

And at a time when the next president must deal with an extremely sensitive phase in Mideast politics, American Jews, who largely support the peace process, must make our voices heard.

In California, Jews can also help shape another crucial issue, the statewide ballot question Proposition 209.

Prop. 209 calls for abolishing affirmative action programs in state hiring and education, and Jews remain divided over the question.

Opponents of 209 say Jews have a historic responsibility to ensure that minorities and the underclass are given equal opportunities, so we must oppose eliminating affirmative action. Proponents say Jews have had an uneasy history with quotas, which were once directed against us, and minorities can gain more opportunities through merit than through preferences.

The issue so splits Jews that the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council only recently came out against Prop. 209. Whatever side we stand on, we can help decide this very close of ballot questions.

Jewish votes matter — whether it's determining the outcome of Prop. 209 or pulling the lever in the presidential race. As American Jews face the 21st century more secure of our position in a democratic nation, we must make our votes count.

It's a Jewish American tradition.