The virus has not stopped these organizations from working to bring Hispanic voters to the polls in November.
With the 2020 presidential election only seven months away, the need to engage Latino voters who want to see a positive change in the country becomes more urgent by the day. At a time when voting rights advocates and organizations reach out to communities by canvassing door to door, holding large rallies or hosting public events, the novel coronavirus pandemic has thrown a wrench in the proceedings, forcing many to change strategy or resort to plan B. We spoke with two powerhouse organizations which have been at the vanguard of Latino voting rights to find out how they are managing in the age of COVID-19.
Poder Latinx: Empowering through the Crisis
Poder Latinx, which works to empower immigrants, Latinos and other people of color to become decision-makers in the political process, has registered over 33,000 voters non stop since September of 2019. But when coronavirus hit Central Florida, their entire approach to the community had to be quickly reinvented, and their operations pivoted to a remote canvassing operation using text-based relational organizing to continue to register voters remotely and online. As a result of these efforts, Poder Latinx expects to reach a total of 750,000 Latino voters before the general election via a remote canvassing campaign that will identify voters who are in alignment with their issues and encourage them to vote.
“We also started our advocacy campaigns earlier than we were expecting to, reaching out to our communities and connecting them with US Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott in Florida, and moving a message of inclusivity to ensure our entire Latinx population was to be included in the legislation,” said a spokesperson for the nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.
At the moment, Poder Latinx is focusing on virtual town halls with elected officials and experts. On Earth Day, for example, they will host a virtual town hall with health experts and community members to call out Central Florida’s largest polluter, the Stanton Coal Power Plant, based in Orlando, pointing out the need for clean air, especially in the midst of coronavirus.
Focused on empowering communities of color, the novel coronavirus has not for a moment slowed them down. “Our team understands the importance of the work we do,” continued the spokesperson. We have seen what low participation in an election can lead to: a disastrous inept administration during the worst health crisis of our generation. But if there is a silver lining, it is that we are positioned to right Democracy.”
Voto Latino: The Effort Continues
As a digital-first organization focusing on online voter registration and engagement, Voto Latino has been able to continue its operations with minor adjustments. For that reason, even as on-site registration opportunities have dropped off, Voto Latino has been able to continue registering Latinx voters at scale.
“In this way, we have become a vital stopgap in the Latinx voter registration space, assisting allied organizations in ramping up their online registration efforts,” said Danny Turkel, from the nonprofit nonpartisan organization currently presided by Maria Teresa Kumar and co-founded by Rosario Dawson and Phil Colon in 2004.
The organization, which in June 2018 announced that it has set a goal of registering one million voters by 2020, works with culturally-relevant materials to allow the Latino community not only to learn about “their place and impact within the American electorate, but also to provide the information they need to register to vote.” For this reason Voto Latino has created a host of content on all their digital channels to educate, engage and empower Latino voters. In Florida, for example, one of the organization’s priority states, their outreach efforts are specifically calibrated to match Florida’s diverse Latino population.