Latinx people confront voting rights challenges nationwide, including language barriers, voter roll purges, and underhanded right-wing tactics designed to make voting the process inconvenient. The New Florida Majority, an organization primarily led by women of color, has been aggressively organizing and campaigning for progressive policies for years. The organization does phone banking, registers voters, and fights to overturn the legacy of Jim Crow by educating people about the ways it is still institutionalized throughout the state.
“I feel really passionately about women leading in the political space and leading for the kinds of changes that we want to see for our children and their children,” said Andrea Mercado, the executive director of the New Florida Majority. “Many women of color are very familiar with the dynamics where women are doing the work and men are getting all the credit. I think there’s a new generation that’s changing that.”
Organizers with the New Florida Majority ran the largest independent expenditure program for 2018 gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum. Against all odds, he became the Democratic party’s candidate, but went on to lose the election by a razor thin margin. Despite that devastating loss, 70% of the candidates the team endorsed won their races.
That same year in Dodge City, Kansas, residents in one of the nations’ few minority-majority cities faced a major hassle when heading to the polls. The city, which has a Latinx population of approximately 60%, has one polling site, which election officials relocated outside of city limits, more than a mile from the nearest bus stop. Though average polling sites are typically expected to serve 1,200 voters, the location for Dodge City residents had to serve more than 13,000 people.
“There’s a systematic assault on our voting rights,” said Mercado. “It sometimes can feel like an uphill battle, but there are people who are out there every day talking to people at laundromats and at their bus stops and in parks and schools about the importance of making your voice heard. The status quo wants us to stay home, and it’s our responsibility to defend our right to the franchise.”
One of those people is Petra Falcon, the executive director of Promise Arizona. The organization has a goal of bringing progress to Latinx communities and fights for a new generation of leaders. The organization also fights against discriminatory state laws, like the state’s ban on ballot harvesting—the practice of having absentee ballots submitted by volunteers or organizers. In January, a federal court voided the law, ruling that a ban on the practice disproportionately affects the elderly, disabled people, and people of color. Falcon has been a vocal supporter of the practice for years, arguing that it helps to encourage voter education. “[Women of color] have always had leadership roles in churches, schools, and families and I think it is now catching up in the electoral process,” Falcon said. “Our community members need to know that [elected officials] make decisions that impact their lives and without their input. We work to change that through leadership development and voter education and [teaching voters] how to have people represent them that represent their values and know what their priorities are.”