While voting by mail maybe new to many of us, it is not a new practice in American democracy. In both 2016 and 2018, roughly 25% of Americans voted using absentee or mail ballots. In fact, during the 2018 midterms, 45% of Latinos voted before Election Day, with 27% of Latinos voting by mail. Some experts predict twice as many Americans will cast absentee ballots this year.
As of Thursday, October 29, 2020, more than 80 million Americans have already casted their ballots this election season. People have made their plans to vote: mail-in ballots have been mailed (more than 51 million), early voters have lined up to make their voice heard (27 million), and Election Day is five days away, where more millions of Americans will show up to the polls, among them an estimated total of 14-15 million Latinos.
By Beatriz Paniego-Béjar, Content Specialist
To ensure all our voices are heard, our Affiliates are working tirelessly in get-out-the-vote (GOTV) activities in their communities. Lacking this year’s door-to-door canvassing options due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UnidosUS is working with some of our Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Program (LEAP) grantees in phone banking, calling eligible voters in their areas and encouraging them to go to the polls. These Affiliates are MAUC (Texas), The Chicano Federation (California), Canal Alliance (California), The Concilio (Texas), Instituto de Progreso Latino (Illinois), and AAMA (Texas).
Today we also wanted to highlight the creative ways in which our Affiliate Network is engaging Hispanics to vote in this election season.
“We can change this. Make a plan to vote”
In Texas, the Rio Grande Valley is seeing a record turnout compared to other general election years. UnidosUS Affiliate La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) has been determined in their GOTV activities, and they are organizing colonia residents, newly naturalized citizens, new voters and high-potential voters across South Texas to show up for Latinos this 2020. They are being very active on social media to help their constituents be informed voters: they have hosted various voter guide events, as well as invited Texas Senate candidates MJ Hegar (Democrat) and John Cornyn (Republican)—who did not respond to their request—to join them on a forum to discuss the issues their community want to hear about: protections for DACA, dignified wages, health care, and more. LUPE also created a call-to-action video, in Spanish and English, to motivate their constituents to make their voices heard and vote:
“Promote the concept of a mail-in ballot”
Knowing that Latinos like showing up to the polls, but also prefer to go to places they trust, UnidosUS Affiliate Canal Alliance started working with Marin County’s Elections Department to add a ballot drop off box at their offices; since they couldn’t install one because the organization doesn’t own the building, they came up with the idea of a Pop-Up Ballot Drop-Off Box. This box will be outdoors in front of their building in San Rafael during the three early election days (this coming Saturday, Sunday, and Monday) and also on Election Day. “We are offering a place where people can come,” Advocacy and Policy Senior Manager Stephany McNally shares. “Latinos are not really accustomed to mail-in a ballot: they like to go to the polls.” Canal Alliance’s hope is that by having this drop-off box, they are reassuring Latinos that is safe to vote with an absentee ballot, and that it is actually safer this year due to the pandemic.
“Your vote is your voice”
UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía joined our Affiliate Asociación de Puertorriqueños en Marcha (APM) in an event on October 3 to rally our community to get registered and ready to vote. APM is celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, still dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia area by helping families achieve their greatest potential. This year, their work has also involved GOTV efforts, including physically distant canvassing in the neighborhoods they serve to continue registering voters, as well as a strong social media presence to encourage voters make a plan to vote.
“Raise your voice and vote”
The Center for Latino Progress (CPL) is shouting it loud and clear: votamos porque podemos, we vote because we can, and their GOTV efforts have been key to inform Latinos in Connecticut of their voter rights. Back in August they were already notifying their constituents that they could vote by dropping off their ballots at places established by their Supervisor of Elections Offices, instead of mailing them fearing USPS would not be able to deliver mail-in ballots on time. CPL has also been sharing voting information from organizations like UnidosUS, NALEO, the Hispanic Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, and more to keep the people they serve informed with the latest updates.
“There is no need to stay in the dark about your ballot”
Our Affiliate El Centro de La Raza in Seattle, Washington, knew that helping their clients this election season also meant to provide them with support on how to fill out their ballot. They have scheduled calls between their clients and their bilingual staff since October 19, and they will be providing this assistance until November 2. El Centro de La Raza is also reminding their followers that people in the state of Washington can register in-person through Election Day, so it’s not too late to make their voices heard. Just as it’s never too early to teach our younger generations about the power of their voices: El Centro de la Raza shares that “[s]taff at our José Martí Childhood Development Center are educating our future leaders about the power of voting and prompting meaningful conversations about civic engagement throughout our communities.”
The winner of this year’s election will most likely not be determined on Election Day, but that doesn’t mean that the elections won’t be trustworthy or secure: we need to trust our democracy and election system to ensure the integrity of the election.
It is important to remember that it takes election officials longer to verify and count absentee ballots than votes cast by electronic voting machines because they need extra time to double check that those ballots have been verified and counted before announcing a result. Furthermore, the pandemic is also going to make the process of counting all the votes and declaring a winner take longer than normal.
This election is not our first during a national crisis. The United States has been holding elections for almost 250 years, and we can be confident that we will overcome this year’s challenges to hold free and fair elections, and that will happen if we do this together as Americans, just as we always have. For more information, please visit adelanteunidos.com and check out our Election Integrity tool kit in English and Spanish, designed to help us counter distrust with accurate messages about the 2020 presidential election, and what will come after.