TU VOZ ES MI VOZ - 2008 Voter Program
Election Day began full with expectations as LCLAA members and volunteers anxiously awaited the culmination of widespread Get Out The Vote and voter protection efforts. Latinos turned out in record numbers and flexed their political muscle by helping decide the 2008 elections. LCLAA volunteers in the battleground states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Michigan participated in voter education and voter protection efforts as part of LCLAA's Tu Voz es Mi Voz campaign, a national effort launched to politically empower the Latino community by promoting civic engagement.
On Election Day, LCLAA voter protection monitors of various races and nationalities descended upon eight precincts in Prince William County from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, and New York, to protect the Latino vote, disseminate voter rights information, serve as interpreters and prevent any attempts at voter intimidation and voter suppression.
Milton Rosado, National LCLAA President stated, "while many wondered about the power that the Latino vote could exert in the 2008 presidential elections, LCLAA members and volunteers had their boots on the ground, registering voters and canvassing door to door in Grand Rapids; Lansing/East Lansing; Pontiac and Southeast Detroit, Michigan; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Northern Virginia, providing thousands of Latino families with critical information about the voting process, their rights, dates to remember, state regulations, etc. And in Prince William County, LCLAA was the only national Latino organization making sure that the election process was fair and just for all voters." Rosado added, "fortunately, key polling sites had a significant presence of poll monitors distributing voter rights information and working to make sure everything went smoothly by attending to voter complaints and referring them to legal assistance when it was needed. Voters were very grateful that our members were there to make sure their vote counted."
Although a rainy day, nothing was going to stop LCLAA volunteers from delivering on their promise to make sure the Latino vote was protected in key sites throughout the country. Research by the Pew Hispanic Center projected that 9 million Latinos could turn out for the presidential election but the massive turnout by Latino voters exceeded expectations as close to 10 million Latinos headed to the polls to make their voices heard, increasing their 2004 voter turnout numbers by 32 percent. Latinos represented an unprecedented political force in the 2008 elections- 67 percent of them granted Obama their vote. Their support for President-Elect Barack Obama in various battleground states contributed to his landslide victory against Senator John McCain.
Dr. Gabriela D. Lemus, LCLAA's Executive Director stated, "the political muscle of Latinos has proven to be significantly powerful when flexed. The question now is, how do we sustain and grow the political strength of the Latino electorate and keep them consistently engaged in the political process so that the momentum built in this election cycle does not dissipate to only reappear four years later. We must make the most out of the energy and enthusiasm that drove millions of Latinos to the polls, and expand on their ability to drive the changes they seek."
Dr. Lemus added, "as Latino voters exited the polls, we surveyed them on their concerns and reasons for getting to the polls. The call for change was overwhelming in their responses. They want to see a change in our economic policies, change in our immigration policy and change in our health care policy. They want their kids to receive a good education and to be able to afford college when they grow up. Overall, Latinos want what every working family wants: prosperity, opportunities and an overhaul of policies that have proven themselves harmful to working families nationwide."
LCLAA WITNESSES SUCCESSFUL CULMINATION OF GOTV AND VOTER PROTECTION EFFORTS
The LCLAA "Latino Working Families Vote" and "Tu Voz es mi Voz" communications campaign resonated with Latino and immigrant communities because of our history of deep commitment to Latino working families and our communities. This program emphasized the power of voting and how it affects Latinos locally. Many Latinos were first time voters and they have started to feel their power in sheer numbers has been translated into some political power.
Our voter education, registration, and GOTV program helped to harness those numbers by informing the community about issues that affect them while giving them a voice in the political arena and ultimately a say in how resources are allocated in their neighborhoods and throughout their state. Our voter protection campaign ensured that their votes were counted, while our communications campaign generated enthusiasm and hope in Latino voting power.
Since its inception in 1973 LCLAA has historically engaged with a series of community-based organizations in every state in which it works to create umbrella-coalitions to avoid duplicative efforts and maximize limited resources thus ensuring the success of engaging the Latino community both during and between election cycles.
The success of LCLAA's "Latino Working Families Vote" campaign depended on dedicated volunteer service of local Latino leaders and community-based organizations who participated in this campaign and in the Latino Community Coalitions. The local coalitions were the primary conduits for sustained voter contact and extensive early voting and GOTV efforts on Election Day. LCLAA's strategies included activating new voters within the targeted states at the grassroots level by sharing our training materials with other organizations in the Latino Community Coalitions and the community-at-large. This function provided an additional benefit in that unions had direct access to organize in the Latino community using LCLAA as the messenger.