By Janet Hernandez, Senior Civic Engagement Project Manager
On a snowy February afternoon, with temperature that felt below freezing, Hispanas Organizadas de Lake and Ashtabula (HOLA) Ohio members were out on the streets registering Latinos to vote.
“The Latino community is committed to having our voices heard at the ballot box in 2016,” said Ely Velez, an HOLA member who has been leading part of the organization’s civic engagement efforts.
“Voter registration is important because it’s what the Latino community needs to change the policies that are impacting our families” said Veronica Dahlberg, Executive Director. “We struggle to find ways to change the issues, but until we register to vote we will continue to be pushed to the side by our elected officials.”
The number-one concern for HOLA members is immigration reform; immigrants and citizens alike have a family member impacted by this issue. Immigration affects so many other issues like education, safety, and health care. Too many Latino children live in fear of losing a parent or family member to deportation. For example, more than 3.5 million parents eligible for DAPA have children who are U.S citizens.
HOLA, a participant in the NCLR Mobilize the Vote: Planting the Seed program (an NCLR Initiative to increase Affiliate and partner’s capacity to engage voters) started registering voters through community meetings with more than 100 people, and asked them to mobilize their families and neighbors to register to vote and participate in the primary election scheduled for March 15, 2016.
Since January the organization has registered more than 100 people and is committed to continue registering voters until November.
“There is a disconnected relationship between legislators and the Latino community in Ohio. Legislators are making decisions without firsthand knowledge of what the Latino community is going through; at the same time the Latino community needs to go out to vote and make elected officials accountable,” said Dahlberg.
According to the Pew Research Center, there are 199,000 Hispanic eligible voters in Ohio—the 19th largest Hispanic statewide eligible voter population nationally. This represents 50% of all Hispanics in the state.
“I want to see a great turnout, as significant as the size of our population. We are working hard to register Latino voters to increase Latino voter participation in our state,” said Dahlberg.
Approximately 878,000 Latino citizen children will turn 18 each year between 2011 and 2028, according to analysis conducted by NCLR. For HOLA, this growth represents a great opportunity as the organization works with Latino youth and is engaging them to get registered. “Many of the youth who are registering to vote through HOLA have been part of the organization since they were kids. They have been waiting for years to take part of this opportunity to vote in November,” said Dahlberg as she spoke proudly about the HOLA youth. “Without a doubt, they will be representing their families at the polls in the primaries and in the presidential election.”