Two Latino advocacy giants announce major civic engagement initiative

Rolls of "I voted" stickers litter a table.
AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki

The country’s largest Hispanic civil rights group is teaming up with one of the largest Hispanic civic engagement groups on a multiyear partnership to promote voting and other forms of civic engagement among Latinos.

The partnership between UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota will start with a $15 million investment to register 100,000 new voters and reach out to 2 million Hispanics who voted in 2020 to participate in the 2022 midterms.

“Our country is experiencing unprecedented challenges to our democracy. There are forces seeking to undermine our power to advance solutions, and to weaken our civil society at a time our democracy needs us the most,” said Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS.

“Just like our community, UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota will bring together the best each of our organizations has to offer to turbo-charge our community’s voice, and the will of the vast majority of Americans yearning for solutions,” she added.

The formal announcement of the alliance between the two groups will take place Saturday at the UnidosUS annual conference, held this year in San Antonio, Texas.

UnidosUS, formerly known as NCLR, has a broad network of affiliates throughout the country that provide a series of community services, and its national operation is a powerhouse for research and advocacy in the Latino community.

Mi Familia Vota is a grassroots organization that operates in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and Texas, engaging Hispanics through citizenship workshops, voter registration and voter participation drives.

The new partnership between the two groups will operate in Arizona, California, Georgia, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania and Texas, running a host of civic engagement initiatives from voter registration to public opinion research and community programs.

“What’s significantly different here is that yes, we’re gonna do a joint campaign this year, but this is a multi year strategic partnership and basically looking at how to build on the strengths of each organization,” said Clarissa Martínez-de-Castro, vice president of the Latino Vote Initiative at UnidosUS.

The multiyear focus of the partnership seeks to break a cycle where Hispanic communities are often not politically contacted until late in each election season, and often left as an afterthought between elections.

That lack of civic engagement is one of the factors that contributes to traditionally low Hispanic voter turnout and underrepresentation of the country’s second-largest ethnic group in government.

Low turnout is especially notable in nonpresidential election years, with the exception of 2018, when Hispanics participated in the midterm elections at near-presidential levels.

“My hope is that we can get close to the surge of Latino participation we saw in 2018,” said Martínez-de-Castro.

Still, the effort to energize voters is coming at a time when the electorate is generally demoralized and a time when several states have passed tighter voting restrictions.

“The hope is to do everything we can with all the cross winds we have,” said Martínez-de-Castro.

“There’s a lot of fear, a lot of obstacles, but again, to not let those cross winds have the effect that those folks that are trying to make it harder for Americans to get to the voting booths are hoping to achieve,” she added.

Still, Hispanic voters tend to be disproportionately affected by a host of issues that are essentially on the ballot, particularly in battleground states.

The partnership between UnidosUS and Mi Familia Vota is betting that long term engagement on those issues will induce a more participative electorate, both during election season and in intervening periods.

“Our country is at a crossroads with democracy under serious attack. Whether it is the shooting in Uvalde, the Supreme Court Justice ruling on Roe V. Wade, the weakening of the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to combat climate change, or the possible loss of DACA, the Latino community is bearing the brunt of these attacks,” said Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota.

“Given these immense challenges, Mi Familia Vota is proud to launch this long-term strategic partnership with Unidos.US. Together we have the largest national infrastructure needed to continue building Latino political power, fight voter suppression, and strengthen our democracy,” he added.

Updated July 9, 9:59 a.m.

Tags civic engagement Hispanic voters Janet Murguía Latinos Mi Familia Vota Roe v. Wade voter registration

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