The mainstream media has two settings when it comes to Latino voters: “The Sleeping Giant will determine the next president!” and “A confounding mystery endures: Latino voters don’t turn out to vote, but why?!”
A primer: There is no such thing as a “Latino community.” Latino voters are diverse—from many different countries and cultures. And complex—with different views toward immigration, depending on where they’re from (remember that all Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens by birth and Cubans have enjoyed special rules for entering the U.S. and obtaining legal status since the Cold War).
Candidates uttering a few stock phrases in heavily accented Spanish aren’t going to cut it. This is especially true when issues that have particular resonance with Hispanic voters—education, health care, gun violence, jobs for our children’s future—are left largely unexplored.
Last week, Arnold Garcia and Kyle Longley wrote an essay in The New York Times with the headline “What Democrats Need to Know to Win Latinos.” As they put it: “The 2018 midterm elections showed a sharp increase in Latino voter turnout, but the continued failure by Democrats to understand the nuances of the Latino electorate could well result in another forehead-slapping, head-scratching rerun of disappointing turnout in 2020.”
But, also, let’s not forget that even as the Latino electorate requires understanding, it needs something far simpler to get energized and ready to vote next November.
Money. Cash. Moolah.
Or, in the parlance of politics: resources, investments.
“The best strategy to increase Latino voter turnout in presidential elections is to close the registration gap,” according to a new analysis of Latino voters by UnidosUS (formerly the National Council of La Raza) and the polling firm Latino Decisions.
“Closing the registration gap” is an artful phrase that hides the stone-cold truth: Organizations that care about getting Latinos registered to vote, informed about the candidates and issues, and energized to actually get to a polling place on Election Day need the money to make that happen.
Printing leaflets in Spanish and getting organizers to go door-to-door preaching about this or that candidate won’t move the needle.
Airing ads on Spanish language radio and TV isn’t anywhere near enough.
Organizations need to pay lawyers to advocate for Latino voters in state legislatures where fights against gerrymandering and discriminatory poll practices are ongoing.
Organizations need help sponsoring civics sessions that educate Hispanics whose families may be from foreign countries about why and how their vote matters in this coming election.
Organizations must register Latinos to vote, and they also need to identify those who need proper identification—like state IDs and driver’s licenses—for when they get to the polls.
Organizations must help potential Latino voters wade through the maze of getting their registration sorted out if there’s a typo or their card doesn’t arrive in the mail, or if they’ve somehow been thrown off their state’s voter rolls in a data “cleanup.”
And on Election Day, organizations need to be everywhere on the ground. They need to help by getting people out to vote, driving people to far-flung poll locations and monitoring balloting places for irregularities, such as machines that are malfunctioning, improper electioneering or election judges who are confused about Latino people’s multiple last names.
These tactics are longtime, tried-and-true methods of getting any special group of voters out to the polls. But they need to happen now, when the countless grass-roots organizations who understand their specific Hispanic communities’ needs require the funds to build and staff their outreach efforts.
There are many, many organizations that would love nothing more than to be able to provide these services—free of charge, of course—to every potential Hispanic voter in every community across the country.
They just need money. Resources. Investments from larger, national organizations who claim to be very eager to get Latinos out to vote.
Getting Hispanics to vote ain’t rocket science, folks.
It just requires the focused interest of large, national and moneyed organizations to care enough to commit now to getting the Latino vote out in November. I’m looking at you, Republican National Committee, Democratic National Committee and philanthropic foundations. Will you step up?