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Smart Campaigns Invest in Latino Voter Engagement – and Not Doing So is a Missed Opportunity

 

The first installment of the new NALEO Educational Fund and Latino Decisions weekly tracking poll of Latino voters in the runup to the 2018 elections finds that campaigns’ efforts to reach, mobilize, and persuade Latino voters may be under-resourced. Meanwhile, the success of candidates such as Ayanna Pressley in Massachusetts and Beto O’Rourke in Texas charts the way forward and offer a reminder that direct Latino-focused engagement, investment, and related organizing has been an essential part of some of the most impressive campaigns this cycle.

The NALEO Educational Fund/Latino Decisions poll found that “nearly 60 percent of Latino registered voters reported that they have not been contacted by a campaign, political party or organization asking them to register or vote.” As Arturo Vargas, NALEO Educational Fund chief executive officer, stated in an accompanying press release:

This poll confirms what we have known for some time—that Latino voters are still being ignored by the nation’s major campaigns, political parties and funders. We are once again witnessing an overall lack of investment in Latino outreach efforts across the country in Election 2018, with the little funding that is available being diverted towards partisan outcomes.  If we want to make significant progress increasing the number of Americans who vote, we cannot afford to have history keep repeating itself by continuously ignoring the nation’s second largest population group election cycle after election cycle. The time for change is now.

Despite the low contact rate, there remain signs that the Latino electorate is primed to engage this cycle, with more than two in three Latino registered voters stating in the new poll that it was more important to vote this year than in the previous midterm elections. Indeed, several successful campaigns this cycle have been built on a combination of bold leadership, unequivocal issue stances, and a recognition that a winning coalition was impossible without direct Latino voter engagement. Specifically, while the energy and early successes of Ayanna Pressley and Beto O’Rourke are due to a number of factors, their understanding that Latinos, like all voters, need to be directly engaged and asked to vote should not be overlooked.

As consultant Alex Goldstein tweeted in the aftermath of Pressley’s upset win in the Massachusetts 7th congressional district Democratic primary:

Memo to potential candidates considering a run someday across America: our only paid television ads for the ENTIRE @ayannapressley campaign were on Telemundo and Univision. Besides that, our message was spread entirely on the doors, phones, and via social and earned media.

And a recent HuffPost article by Roque Planas, titled “Beto O’Rourke’s Path To Victory Runs Along The Border,” highlights efforts by the O’Rourke campaign and allies to reach out, engage, and mobilize Latino voters, especially along the Texas border region. The article quotes Cristina Tzintzún, the director of Jolt, a GOTV organization targeting young Latinos, who summarized the problem that smart campaigns are now trying to overcome:

People are loath to expend resources on young voters, especially young voters of color, because they say they don’t turn out … But then there’s an investment problem.