By Loren McArthur, Deputy Director, Civic Engagement, NCLR
Elections matter. This November, Americans will choose governors in 36 states, elect the entire U.S. House of Representatives and one-third of the U.S. Senate, select a great majority of their state legislators, and decide who will represent them in hundreds of local elections. The decisions these elected officials make will impact the lives of Latinos across the country on issues ranging from the quality of Latino children’s education to the ability of Hispanic families to access health care, obtain quality jobs, own their own home, and pursue the American Dream.
What exactly is at stake for the Hispanic community in 2014? Here are five reasons Latinos should vote in November.
1. Millions of Latinos still lack health insurance.
Health care reform created a historic opportunity to extend health coverage to millions of Latinos, but fully realizing the potential of the law will require greater action on the part of state officials. Lawmakers in 24 states have rejected federal funding available to them under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid, denying health insurance to nearly one million low-income Latinos. In addition, millions of Latinos who are eligible for insurance programs remain unenrolled. Helping more Latinos obtain health insurance will depend on electing state leaders committed to the health of the Hispanic community.
2. Latino workers need a raise.
Forty-three percent of Latino workers earn poverty-level wages. The current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is not enough to keep a single parent with one child out of poverty. Congress has introduced but has not yet passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $10.10, which would make it easier for approximately 6.8 million Latinos, or nearly one-quarter of the Hispanic workforce, to take care of their families. Dozens of states are also considering increasing their own minimum wages. Your vote in November helps Latino workers get a raise.
3. Hardworking Hispanic families deserve a chance to own their own homes.
While 65 percent of all Americans are homeowners, fewer than 46 percent of Hispanics own their own homes.Homeownership is central to the American Dream and one of the principle vehicles by which Hispanic families build wealth. Members of Congress have been debating changes to housing finance laws that could make it easier and less costly for Latinos to get mortgages—or more difficult. Latinos must make their voices heard in November to ensure that all hardworking Americans have a chance to own their own homes.
4. Latino students deserve better schools.
Hispanic students are more likely than others to attend schools with fewer resources, less experienced teachers, and lower academic standards. Dozens of states have adopted policies requiring that all students be taught to the same rigorous academic standards and that schools be held accountable for ensuring students’ success. These policies, known as the Common Core State Standards, are under attack by conservative and liberal groups alike.
Common Core represents a unique opportunity to ensure that Latino children are ready for college, careers, and life. Elected school board members and state officials will decide whether the new standards are upheld in many areas of the country; they hold the future of our children in their hands. Vote to make sure your children are given every opportunity to succeed in school.
5. Inaction on immigration reform is devastating Latino communities.
Congressional inaction on reform combined with record-setting deportations has torn apart millions of families and devastated the social fabric of American communities. Latino electoral participation in 2012 propelled immigration to the top of the congressional agenda, leading to the passage of a bill in the Senate. Strong Hispanic participation in 2014 can ensure that House Republican leadership passes immigration reform that restores the rule of law and strengthens our economy, or it can set the stage for administrative action to bring relief to our communities.
Elections matter. To change our community and the country for the better, vote this November.