Young Latinos can be the key to the greatest demonstration of voter turnout in American history.
By Jose Garcia, Special to CalMatters
Jose Garcia is a communications associate at the Latino Community Foundation based in San Francisco, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lea este artículo en español.
2020 marks the first time that Latinos will make up the largest ethnic voting group in the country. In California alone, there are 7.9 million eligible Latino voters – the largest Latino voting bloc in the nation.
At the same time, Latinos have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They are being infected and dying from the virus at higher rates than any other demographic group. To date, 61% of all cases in the state are within the Latino community.
And as we continue to plunge deeper into this economic downturn – it is Latinos who are being hit hard by unemployment, pay cuts, lack of health care and access to emergency funds. A September 2020 poll from the Latino Community Foundation and Latino Decisions found that 40% of Latinos have either been furloughed or had their work hours cut.
For these reasons, it’s imperative that Latinos turn out to vote this year and cast their ballots early and from home: to make their voices heard and to ensure a safe and accessible election season.
In California, registered voters should have already received their ballots which they can submit through the mail or at a ballot drop box in lieu of voting in person on Nov. 3. However, a recent poll from Latino Decisions and the Voter Participation Center found that nearly two-thirds of Latino and Black voters prefer to vote in person because “they believe their vote is more likely to be counted than if they vote by mail.”
Adding to this concern, the validity around vote by mail this year has been undermined by the current administration which has repeatedly questioned its integrity.
We need to combat these concerns in order to safeguard our confidence in democracy. We are facing a plethora of challenges in 2020, but the facts are clear – voting by mail is safe, reliable and preferable given the moment we are living in under this pandemic. New initiatives like the Vote Early Day coalition have sprung up this year to ensure that all voters have the necessary information to vote early and cast their ballots by Oct. 24.
When mail-in ballots aren’t counted, they are most likely submitted without signature or not turned in by Election Day. If you are voting early make sure not to make these simple mistakes to ensure your vote is counted.
But there’s also another front in which Latinos, especially its youth, can defend our democracy: the polling place. Polling locations are predicted to be understaffed this election with fewer poll workers signing up – which can likely cause longer voting lines in predominantly Black and Latino neighborhoods.
To avoid these long lines, young people who have been peacefully protesting and calling for change can also show up for their communities by signing up as poll workers and administer our in-person voting. The California Secretary of State’s office is vigorously advocating for them to work as poll workers on Election Day and to step up at this moment.
The Latino vote will be crucial this election. Not only to decide the next president of the United States, but to pass initiatives in California like Proposition 15 which will reclaim $12 billion in funding for our schools and communities by ending tax loopholes and Proposition 16 that will restore affirmative action in public contracting and public universities.
Make no mistake justice is on the ballot this year. And it’s time for Latinos to vote early and safely from their homes. We must also maintain electoral accessibility for our communities by serving as poll workers on Election Day. Young Latinos can be the key to the greatest demonstration of voter turnout in American history. Our democracy depends on it.
Jose Garcia has also written about DACA and the Supreme Court.