Efforts underway to register Latino voters ahead of mid-term election


Marin County and nonprofits within its borders are working to increase Latino voter registration and turnout ahead of the November election. Although no one has hard data on the percentage of unregistered and eligible Latino voters in Marin, the county and immigrant advocacy organizations like the Canal Alliance say that registration and turnout among Latinos is low. In fact, low turnout is an issue among all voter groups nationwide, especially in midterm elections; for the last midterms, barely more than a third of eligible voters came out to the polls. In West Marin, the Immigration Rapid Response program—a subcommittee of West Marin Stand Together—has been using its database to send regular text messages to potential voters. “All it says—it’s very simple—[is] how to register, and encourages others to register,” said Jorge Perez, a member of the rapid response program. The messages, which come out every week, give recipients a countdown with the remaining number of open registration days. Countywide efforts are also underway to increase Latino registration and turnout. “We want to be sure that populations that are perhaps underrepresented know the processes of registering to vote,” said Registrar of Voters Lynda Roberts. For more than six years the county has had a communications consultant to promote outreach to various communities—including the Latino community—so that people “feel like they have a connection with the election,” Ms. Roberts said. “There’s been an effort to keep the outreach growing and make efforts to educate under-represented communities.” Danielle Walker, Canal Alliance’s marketing and communications manager, said that much of the organization’s outreach has involved translating voter materials and helping citizens determine whether or not they are eligible to vote. “If you are first-generation in the U.S., it’s not something you grew up understanding,” she said. “It’s a civics lesson for a lot of our clients: what you can take with you, what you can’t, how to find your polling place, how to register.” For the last six weeks, Canal Alliance has been pushing out a bilingual voter education campaign through Facebook that goes over what people need to register. Ms. Walker stressed that everything on the ballot would affect the Latino community, but said the organization was paying particularly close attention to school board elections and both candidates and ballot measures that focus on housing. According to an American Community Survey, Latino renters in Marin have two-thirds less income after paying housing costs than white renters. “We know only 30 percent of Latinos in Marin graduate from high school college-ready, compared to 70 percent of their white peers,” Ms. Walker added. One of the biggest barriers for unregistered Latino citizens, Mr. Perez said, is fear. For those who are hesitant about registering, “parents or siblings might not be residents or citizens, and there’s fear that their information would go into a database,” he explained. Rebecca Porrata is a member of West Marin Stand Together who has been involved in voter registration efforts. “It’s so encouraging for me to see that some of our families see the importance of this. This is their voice, their only chance to really make a statement. Some are going to prefer to do it at home, and others are going to want to go to the voting site,” she said.