Hispanic Democrats launch new voter rights initiative

Hispanic Democrats launch new voter rights initiative
© Greg Nash

The Hispanic Caucus's campaign arm, Bold PAC, launched a new committee Wednesday to protect voting rights amid national debate on universal access to voting.

The new political action committee, Elect Diverse Democrats, will expand Bold PAC's reach from its traditional role of recruiting and supporting candidates to grow the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) to put funding into direct action campaigns and litigation on voting rights.

"While Bold PAC is [funded by] donors interested in electing Latinos, this one is interested in people who [prioritize] access to the ballot," Bold PAC Chairman Rep. Ruben GallegoRuben GallegoThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by AT&T - Final countdown: Senate inches toward last infrastructure vote Arizona state senator arrested on charges of sexual conduct with a minor House Democrats introduce bill restoring voting provision after SCOTUS ruling MORE (D-Ariz.) told The Hill.

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The new initiative is launching the day after a GOP Senate filibuster blocked the Democrats' voting rights legislation, dubbed the "For The People Act."

With federal legislation off the table for the moment, Democrats will seek to push back on state and local actions they see as prohibiting access to voting.

Democrats see the Senate defeat as a starting point for the debate on voting rights, highlighting how GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed voting restrictions they say are necessary for election security.

“No matter how hard they tried, Republicans couldn't change the outcome of the presidential election. So now they’re trying to make it as difficult as possible for communities of color to vote. We must stand against them and everyone who seeks to impose policies that will suppress votes and threaten our democracy. That’s what this new effort will do," said Rep. Verónica Escobar (D-Texas) in a statement.

Minority communities are particularly sensitive to actions like voter roll purges, closure of polling stations, partisan gerrymandering, stringent ID requirements and limitations on early and absentee voting. Many of these measures are present in state Republican election reform proposals.

"The realization is that voting rights are consistently under attack and we need a standing mechanism to protect against that," said Gallego.

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Historically, Hispanic communities have been dogged with lower registration rates, but that trend has begun to recede, in large part because of outreach programs and voter education campaigns.

But those efforts can be expensive, and grassroots organizations are often not able to reach the communities most affected by a lack of access to easy voting.

"Fair elections and fair redistricting create a more representative democracy. And that’s something all Americans should be fighting for," said Rep. Jimmy Gómez (D-Calif.).

Gallego added that the funds raised by Elect Diverse Democrats will be used for everything from training local volunteers, to litigation in redistricting efforts or lawsuits against voter suppression.

"Our focus is at the state and local level, but really anywhere where we have the opportunity to affect outcomes," said Gallego.

Still, Rep. Sylvia García (D-Texas) said Latinos are particularly vulnerable to voter suppression.

"Unfortunately, recent attempts to suppress our votes show us the critical moment we are in and the need to elect Latino leaders. Elect Diverse Democrats will protect and continue building the political power of our Latino communities,” Garcia said.