Authored by: Claudia Villanueva, Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager in San Francisco, CA
Growing up in a predominately Latino community, politics wasn’t always the biggest topic of conversation. My household, however, was quite different.
“Latinos have to look out for ourselves, because if not, no one else will.” These were the words I would often hear in my home, coming from my father who ignited my interest in politics so early on in my life. Because of his influence, as soon as I turned 18, I registered to vote and voted in every single election possible. But following the 2016 Presidential Election, those words from my father became a shocking reality.
To achieve real progress in our community, Latino voices must be heard and never forgotten. Voting is one concrete way in achieving that goal.
Knowing this, I started phone banking, attended meetups to talk elections, followed Latino influencers on Instagram/Facebook to become informed, and even developed a friendship from someone at the Latino Community Foundation (LCF).
It was through this friendship that I got invited to an event I attended last week titled, “Recap of the November 2018 Elections: Where Do We Go from Here?” The goal of the event was to understand how Latinos performed at the polls and what we can do as a community in preparation for the 2020 Presidential Election.
So, what did I learn?
Latinos are a FORCE! California has the largest Latino population in the United States at over 15 Million. Over 1 in 4 eligible Latino voters in the country, in fact, lives in California. Of all Latinos eligible to vote in the state, 44% are millennials.
Because of such demographic power, Latinos came out to the polls strong during the 2018 Midterm Elections. In the seven districts that the Democrats overturned in the state, Latinos made up at least 15% of eligible voters. In certain districts in the Central Valley, that number rises to nearly two in three eligible voters.
At the national level, Latino early voting saw a 174% increase compared to 2014. Young voters especially came out to vote in historic numbers, and this year, made up 75% people of color.
But where do we go from here? We must think big and act boldly in preparation for the 2020 Presidential Election. Here are a few ideas:
- Consider Expanding Automatic Voter Registration.Why not make it mandatory to register? Let’s create a culture where everyone is registered to vote and shows up at the polls for every election!
- Engage Young Latino Voters. Every year, we have thousands of new young Latino voters turning 18. We must continue to keep our young people engaged. Maricela Gutierrez, Executive Director at SIREN, mentioned how their organization started hosting paleta parties for young adults before they turn 18 to get them to start thinking about voting as fun and engaging.
- Contribute to Latino-led Nonprofits that Focus on Mobilizing Latino Voters to the Polls.The more we can give, the more feet on the ground we can get knocking on doors, phone banking, and advertising to our community. My own financial commitment is to become a member of a giving circle and contribute through LCF’s Latino Giving Circle Network next year that funds organizations like these. Learn more at org/latino-giving-circle-network.
- Phone bank. Knock on doors. I am committing for the next election cycle to come out stronger than ever by phone banking and knocking on doors to get Latino voters out to the pools. If Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez taught us anything this election cycle, it’s that we must start changing the narrative of who is showing up at the polls.
Towards the end of the evening, one of my favorite quotes from the panel came from Ben Monterosso, Executive Director at Mi Familia Vota:
“Stop saying we are a sleeping giant. We’ve never been asleep. We’ve been awake. Working.” ✊🏾
And that has always been the case with our community. And I, for one, look forward to continuing this work and bringing other people along.
We’ll see you at the ballot box!