Now that we have had a few months to catch our breath after the Presidential Election, Voter Services and Civics Education are once again beginning to focus on the Hispanic outreach. Despite repeated efforts over the last four years, our results to date have essentially been nil. We’re determined to use this quieter year to redouble our efforts to make meaningful contacts in order to do voter registration and civics education in immigrant communities.
Two local Hispanic Democratic activists recently brought together a bipartisan group of leaders to discuss how we can increase overall Hispanic participation in elections, regardless of party affiliation. The meeting was held at Don Ramon restaurant, with about 15 local leaders from both parties. Everyone was enthusiastic about working together, recognizing that Hispanics represent around 20% of our population.
As a result, this group (as yet unnamed) will be placing voter registration materials (in Spanish and English), along with stamped envelopes, addressed to the Supervisor of Elections (SOE), in businesses catering to Latins. They agreed that young people prefer to register online, so our Voter Services QR code will be displayed on the clipboards so they can be easily scanned to access the link to the registration form. We will not be able to know how many people actually register; however, we will get a monthly report telling us how many people opened the link.
At that meeting, I was able to make a contact that I had been working on for a couple of years. Pastor Valentin Fontanez is the former president and current spokesman for the Hispanic Ministerial Alliance, which represents the majority of Spanish-speaking congregations here in the County. He invited me to be interviewed on his weekly TV show on the Christian TV Network, which I happily accepted.
During the interview, I talked about the League, our history and what we do, and made a point of saying that we are very interested in reaching out to the Spanish-speaking community with Speaker’s Bureau presentations. I invited everyone to join our organization so that we might more closely represent the demographics of Palm Beach County and told people to contact me.
Later, I gave the Pastor a supply of the Series 1 Mini Crosswords, with questions based on the citizenship exam. He was really excited to get them, admitting that his sister-in-law has tried twice to pass the test and failed. “This should really help her,” he said.
He reported that he had spoken to the members of the Alliance about them, too, and that they were most enthusiastic. He planned to share them with the group. With this opening, I asked him to see if there would be a time when we could do a presentation to the Alliance members, and he promised to see what he could do.
For the first time, I am feeling a bit hopeful that we will, at last, be able to penetrate the Latin community. As in the Afro-American community, churches are largely the key to being successful. Most of these congregations will be composed of people who are not yet citizens—many undocumented, others with green cards, or those in the process of applying for citizenship. If we can reach them through our Civics Education, it could lead to a new group of Hispanics who become civically engaged as they better understand their responsibilities as citizens, future citizens, or merely residents of the community.
As they say on TV – STAY TUNED!