Latinos are fighting Republican racism by registering voters
Latinos are fighting Republican racism by registering voters
Republican presidential candidates have been making racist remarks about Latinos in the U.S., and they aren't falling on deaf ears. Those same candidates choosing to skip July's National Council of La Raza conference in Kansas City—which was attended by Democrats Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Martin O'Malley—didn't go unnoticed. Acting as if Latinos don't matter in U.S. elections is not only bad politics, it is the height of political stupidity. Latinos listen.
Latinos are answering the blatant racism and xenophobia with calls for action, and one primary action will be getting people registered to vote and to the ballot box.
The Latino Victory Project has released an ad in both English and Spanish with actors speaking the words that have dripped like venom from the mouths of Republican candidates who aspire to the nation's highest office, ostensibly to represent all Americans.
Here's the English version:
Keep reading below for more on the Latino electorate, the history of Latino voter registration, and how you can get involved.
It's currently in National Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. It's often surprising how little most people in the U.S. know about that history. For those of us who are active Democrats and engaged in organizing for change, it is even more important that we pay much more attention to learning the history of the multiple communities that make up the demographic category called Hispanic or Latino, and about contemporary organizations and organizers who work within those communities.
Recently, when I asked students here in New York to name key civil rights figures from the Latino community, most were stumped. A few could name Cesar Chavez from the United Farm Workers (UFW). None knew the story of one of the most important Latino figures who mobilized and organized Latino voting power—Willie Velásquez.
Willie was known for his battlecry, "Su voto es su voz" (your vote is your voice) and it is fitting that his biography carries that refrain in the title.
The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz was written by Rhodes scholar Juan Sepulveda.
Book cover: The Life and Times of Willie Velasquez: Su Voto Es Su Voz, by Juan Sepulveda
William C. "Willie" Velásquez, Jr. founded the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project (SVREP) and was an influential participant in other leading Latino rights and justice groups, including the Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) and the Mexican American Unity Council (MAUC). From the late 1960s until his untimely death in 1988, Velásquez helped Mexican Americans and other Hispanics become active participants in American political life. Though still insufficiently appreciated, Velásquez holds a unique status in the pantheon of modern American civil rights figures.
Velásquez’s work on voter rights and registration triggered an unprecedented mobilization of Latino voters in pivotal electoral states across the U.S., including California, Illinois, and Texas. Today, as Latinos emerge to constitute America’s new minority of record, with growing reach into other major states, such as New York, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, and North Carolina, Hispanc American political influence, drawing on Velásquez’s legacy-can only become more significant in the years to come.
Former Rhodes Scholar and Velásquez protégé Juan A. Sepúlveda, Jr.’s biography provides a first, definitive glimpse into Velásquez’s life and times. Based on Sepúlveda’s close personal relationship and exchanges with Velásquez during the SVREP founder’s final years, and over a dozen years of research and writing, the book chronicles Velásquez’s influences, his landmark contributions to American civic culture, and his enduring legacy.
From the foreword by Henry G. Cisneros:
The night that Willie Velásquez was taken from us by cancer, his brother George stood by his bedside. George later told me that as Willie’s last moments neared, he whispered, “Qué bonito mundo nuevo.” His words translate roughly as, “What a beautiful new world it is!”
It is impossible to know precisely what Willie meant. Those of us who believe in the hereafter may surmise that Willie saw a glimpse of the spiritual world toward which he was moving that night. But he may also have been reflecting on the new world he had already helped create on earth and anticipating its beautiful progression. We now know that Willie’s work—profoundly American, fair-minded, and full of love for the marginalized and striving—has created a better world of inclusion, of possibilities, and of dreams fulfilled.
Few Americans have had as much influence over American electoral participation and representation in the modern era as Willie Velásquez. Willie’s efforts as a political organizer and builder of community-based institutions helped elevate American Latino voter participation to levels commensurate with our growing population numbers, following more than a century of institutionalized exclusion. Today, largely based on work Willie began, Latino voters and elected officials play an increasingly significant role in enhancing the nation’s quality of life through the election of our public leaders and through interventions that shape policies.
This video, titled Remembering Willie, has interviews with people who worked with him, or were affected by his work.
In 1995, Willie was posthumously awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton. In 1996, his name was attached to the US Senate version of the Voting Rights Reauthorization and Amendments Act of 1996. In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a bill to make May 9th the Willie Velásquez Day of Recognition.
Born on May 9, 1944, in the west side of San Antonio, Texas, Willie founded SVREP (SVREP - Su Voto Es Su Voz
) in 1974, to focus on empowering the Latino community through its political participation in the American democratic process. During SVREP’s first fourteen years, Willie organized a massive Latino Vote Campaign to increase the voting power of the Latino community across the southwest. He focused on nonpartisan voter registration efforts and winning voting rights lawsuits. In 1985, Willie launched Southwest Voter Research Institute (renamed William C. Velásquez Institute in 1997, The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI)
) to develop research and policy for the growing cohort of Latino elected officials. In 1988 with Willie’s untimely death, hundreds of opinion and community leader and elected officials, from all walks of life – Latino, White, black, offered their respects to a man who worked to empower the Latino vote.
With a folding chair and table, a phone book and rotary phone, Willie began his legacy. He called potential voters, one at a time, then registered them. Willie also understood that expanding the Latino vote would not fix the structural barriers that prohibited Latinos and other ethnic communities from equal representation and having a voice. So Willie sued cities, counties and school boards – transforming the political landscape in the southwest. When Willie opened SVREP doors, 2.1 million Latinos were registered to vote. Today, over 14.3 million Latinos are registered to vote. SVREP has registered 2.6 million Latino voters, won 85 voting rights lawsuits and trained over 150,000 Latino leaders.
Willie coined the phrase, used widely and nationally, “Su Voto Es Su Voz”.
Sadly, Velásquez died at age 44, but his legacy continues in the work of organizations across the U.S. which are continuing to mobilize.
The organization he founded, SVREP, has expanded its efforts to many parts of the country.
Today, SVREP conducts voter activities in some 14 states including:
It is estimated that SVREP has registered 2.5 million voters since 1974.
Next on my list is Mi Familia Vota
The story of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund (MFV ED) begins in California, where generations of Latinos have worked and struggled to make their voices heard; their contributions recognized; and their issues incorporated as an integral part of the American agenda. In the 1950’s, organizations such as the Community Service Organization, (CSO) pioneered citizenship and voter registration activities that expanded the Latino electorate and resulted in the election of office-holders throughout the state.
MFV ED focused its Get Out The Vote (GOTV) efforts in Arizona, Texas, Colorado and Nevada, while continuing its partnership with the community organizations and the media. The outcome was a turnout of 9.7 million Latinos, an increase of 2.2 million over the 2004 election. In 2009, the YA ES HORA-HÁGASE CONTAR (Now is the time: make yourself count) campaign focused on encouraging participation in the 2010 Census. MFV ED once again played an important role, along with its partners, in providing information and advocating for full participation. After the census, the campaign, now named YA ES HORA-VE Y VOTA (Now is the time: go and vote), encouraged the community to turn out and vote in the election. As a result, the Latino vote is widely credited with being the decisive vote in the outcome of the 2010 congressional and senatorial races in California, Colorado, and Nevada. As a result, the Latino vote has now become a sought after commodity during the 2012 election. MFV is proud of the role it has played throughout its history in making this possible. In 2012, MFV ED has expanded its operations, in addition to Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, to Florida and once again California.
MFV ED has become one of the premier civic engagement organizations in the country, with a trained and skilled cadre of professionals dedicated to the empowerment and civic participation of the Latino community. Its goal is, and will continue to be, to fuel non-partisan, grass roots civic engagement that will advance and promote social and economic justice for the Latino community.
Organizations like iAmerica provide services to Latinos, both citizens and those sin papeles.
iAmerica is a national campaign driven by diverse organizations, created to offer informational tools and interactive opportunities for immigrants and their families to become full participants in our nation’s democracy.
The iAmerica website is a centralized platform with accessible and credible essential services and information for immigrant families.
From applying for administrative relief to finding trusted legal resources in your neighborhood to assisting eligible citizens to register to vote, iAmerica.org houses the solution you need to inform, inspire and impact your future and America’s legacy.
Here's a link to their voter registration page.
Back in 2004, a major voter registration effort was launched by Rosario Dawson, and Maria Teresa Kumar.
In 2012 they ran ads like this one:
About Voto Latino:
Voto Latino is a nonpartisan organization that empowers Latino Millennials to claim a better future for themselves and their community. United by the belief that Latino issues are American issues and American issues are Latino issues, Voto Latino is dedicated to bringing new and diverse voices to develop leaders by engaging youth, media, technology and celebrities to promote positive change.
The use of social media and the call for new ways to reach out to specific Latino communities has sparked innovative new approaches.
Book Cover: Latinos and the 2012 Election: The New Face of the American Voter, by Gabriel R. Sanchez For those of you who are interested in examining data and analyses of Latino voting and voting patterns, a good book to start with is Latinos and the 2012 Election: The New Face of the American Voter, edited by Gabriel R. Sanchez.
In giving President Obama a record level of support (75 percent) and reaching a watershed 10 percent of the voting population, Latinos proved to be decisive in the 2012 election outcome—an unprecedented mark of influence for this segment of the wider electorate. This shift also signaled a radical reenvisioning of mobilization strategies by both parties and created a sea change in the way political organizations conduct outreach and engagement efforts. In this groundbreaking volume, experts in Latino politics ask: What is the scope of Latino voter influence, where does this electorate have the greatest impact, and what issues matter to them most? They examine a key national discussion—immigration reform—as it relates to voter behavior, and also explore the influence of Latinos within key states, including California, Colorado, New Mexico, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, Nevada, and Florida. While some of these states have traditionally had strong Latino voting blocs, in others Latinos are just emerging as major players electorally. The book also discusses the extent to which Latinos were mobilized during the 2012 campaign and analyzes election outcomes using new tools created by Latino Decisions. A blend of rigorous data analysis and organizational commentary, the book offers a variety of perspectives on the past, present, and future of the Latino electorate.
The Pew Research Center continues to provide important research on the Latino electorate:
Share of counties where whites are a minority has doubled since 1980
Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States, 1980 – 2013
Diverse Origins: The Nation’s 14 Largest Hispanic-Origin Groups
Democratic edge in Hispanic voter registration grows in Florida
Other important voting research includes Cross-racial mobilization played an important role in explaining the Latino turnout for Barack Obama in the 2012 election. This was based on a paper in Political Research Quarterly called Revisiting Latino Voting: Cross-Racial Mobilization in the 2012 Election, by Loren Collingwood, Matt A. Barreto and Sergio I. Garcia-Rios:
One of the main storylines that came out of the 2012 presidential election was the role the Latino vote played in Obama’s victory. Among Latino voters, Barack Obama outpaced Mitt Romney by a margin of seventy-five to twenty-three—the highest rate of support for any Democratic candidate among Latinos. While turnout declined nationally from 2008 to 2012 by 2 percent, among Latinos there was a 28 percent increase in votes cast in 2012 (from 9.7 to 12.5 million) and Obama further increased his vote share among Latinos in 2012 compared to 2008. However, this was not a foregone conclusion, and many theories circulated since 2009 suggested the Latino vote might be underwhelming in 2012. Indeed, as late as September 2012, a common headline in the popular press was “Latinos’ enthusiasm gap worries Dems” and that the Latino “seemed to be fading” .
Post-election media accounts of the 2012 Latino vote have suggested that Obama performed so well among Latino voters precisely because of their unique demographic characteristics: Latino voters are younger than average voters (younger voters tend to vote Democratic), have lower income (historically, poorer voters side with Democrats), and, perhaps as a result, tend to identify as Democrats. Still, others have suggested that Obama did so well among Latinos because he supported the Dream Act and initiated an executive order—“deferred action”—for undocumented Latino youth.
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Latino vote made all the difference in the past two presidential elections - Republicans need to be mindful of that.