If there is one thing that tickles the heart of politically active Latinas, it is this fact: In the United States, a Latina/o turns 18 every 30 seconds. Know what that means? It means that every single day there are potential new voters; new power to tap into to sway elections; a new force to address long-ignored issues desperately important to Latino communities.
Long time Coloradan, now New Mexico resident, Katherine Archuleta, has not let slip by this stunning reality. She and fellow voter activist, Amy Sanchez Raaz---co-founders of I’m Latina and I Vote---want to reach out to every Latina eligible to vote in Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, and Jefferson counties and spread the word that elections are important and that they have consequences.
I’m Latina and I Vote wants to get the attention of thousands of Latinas between the ages of 18-34 who are often considered “low propensity voters” and often ignored by traditional campaigns. “We’re going to reach at least 20,000 Latinas,” said Archuleta, “and have contact with them at least five times a day.” This group, said Archuleta, is the “highest users of cell phones and social media.” Social media is also the most effective way of sharing a message.
The effort at making in-roads with this burgeoning and potentially powerful demographic is not new. I’m Latina and I Vote has been around since 2004 doing the work of attracting and inspiring Latina voters. But the world has changed since it began. If you don’t use social media effectively, said the long politically involved Archuleta, you lose or, at least, minimize the opportunity of influencing thought and action.
I’m Latina and I Vote has done its homework and knows that if it succeeds in reaching an underserved voting bloc, it can have success well into the future. It’s “cultural awareness,” said Archuleta. “In Latino families, women play a very important role in guiding the family. If we can bring one person to vote in the family---especially the female---she will be influential. That’s the way Latino families are structured.” If successful, Archuleta said, the effort could result in a two to seven percent increase in voting. Those margins are what win elections.
Between 2000 and 2018, Hispanic voter participation rose from 11 to 16 percent. But that, said Archuleta, is just the start. Hispanics are projected to be the largest minority group among eligible voters in the nation for the first time in this current election cycle.
While Archuleta remains optimistic, she has been around politics long enough to also be realistic. “We really want to be able to impact the Latina and Latino vote in Colorado,” she said. Even if the effort falls short, it will still have touched and inspired Latinas to do what they might not have done had the effort not been made.
Archuleta has worked exclusively in Democratic politics, going back to the 1980’s when she served as Federico Pena’s top advisor in his successful run at Denver Mayor. But I’m Latina and I Vote is a “non-profit, non-partisan” undertaking. “We’re reaching out to all Latinas,” said Archuleta. If it inspires a young Latina Republican to cast a vote she otherwise may not have cast, it was not a wasted effort.
This election cycle, the number one issue for Latinas is family health and the government’s response to the COVID-19 crisis. The virus has killed more than 200,000 men, women, and young people. Latinos and African-Americans represent a disproportionate percentage of deaths from this illness. It is followed by the rising cost of health care and the economic stress of job loss due to the pandemic.
More information on I’m Latina and I Vote can be obtained at www.latinainitiative2020.org.