Latino Voter Participation
How Service Organizations Can Help Boost Latino Voter Participation
Increasingly, social service organizations are recognizing that they must support systemic policy change in order to meet the needs of their clients and fulfill their broader missions. This means developing effective civic engagement programs that can help their clients naturalize, register to vote, and participate in elections and ongoing issues advocacy.
With well-designed civic engagement programs targeting their clients, Latino service providers can play an important role in increasing Latino voter participation. In 2008, NCLR supported 29 Affiliates and partners in designing and implementing voter registration drives that registered over 25,000 new voters. With NCLR’s support, these organizations also undertook get-out-the-vote efforts that reached more than 70,000 infrequent Latino voters in their communities. These service providers targeted their efforts primarily toward their own client networks, registering people to vote on-site through their services and programs.
Why Latino service organizations should promote Hispanic voter participation. There are at least two key reasons why social service organizations should actively pursue voter engagement efforts:
- To fulfill their missions and protect their program funding. Our state budgets are in crisis, and social service organizations are facing the loss of significant public funding. Forty-eight states faced $200 billion in shortfalls in 2010, and 45 states cut public services for health, elderly and the disabled, K–12, and other programs. To preserve funding for their vital programs, social service organizations must find ways to increase the participation of Latino voters—especially their clients—in their communities so that they can have a stronger voice in state capitals.
- Because service providers have valuable resources, networks, and credibility in the community that can be leveraged to increase the Latino vote. For example, NCLR’s California Affiliate Network includes 57 service-provider organizations that collectively employ 7,800 people and reach 1.1 million clients. If these organizations focus on making sure that all of their eligible clients are registered to vote and participate in elections, they can have a strong impact in California on critical public issues affecting the Latino community.
What your organization can do to increase Latino voter participation. There are a number of steps your organization can do to increase the Latino voter engagement in the communities you serve:
Conduct voter registration drives on-site at your agency. This can be as simple as handing out voter registration cards to everyone who comes in to your office. You can also train your program staff to integrate voter registration directly into the programs and services you offer in the community. NCLR Affiliates have successfully integrated voter registration activities into English and GED classes, health clinics, homebuyer training, youth programs, and many other programs and services.
Voter education. NCLR has produced a pocket guide on six key issues that are important to Latino voters in the upcoming elections, which you can distribute to clients at your agency. You can also host a candidate forum and invite candidates in your district to speak to your staff and constituents about the issues they care about.
Get out the vote. While the voter registration deadline for the 2010 elections has already passed, it is not too late to get the Latino vote out in your communities! Set up a phone bank to contact clients who are eligible to vote or send volunteers to help out with another organization’s nonpartisan phone bank. Send a mailing or email to your client lists reminding them to vote on November 2. NCLR has also produced a mailer that you can send to your clients with important information on their rights as voters.
Election protection. You can help make sure that Latino voters’ rights are protected at the polls by asking your staff to volunteer for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights’ election protection hotline. Click here for more information.
Are service providers permitted to engage in electoral work? Yes! While they cannot support or oppose any candidate for office, nonprofit, 501(c)(3) organizations are permitted to engage in nonpartisan electoral activities such as voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote efforts. You should inform yourself about the specific rules and limitations on nonprofit electoral activities. More information is available from the Alliance for Justice, a nonprofit organization that provides legal guidance and training to nonprofits on electoral and lobbying rules and guidelines. Visit their website at www.allianceforjustice.org.