As the early voting period for the Nov. 6 elections began in Texas this week, cheerleaders and a marching band from a Houston high school led dozens in a "march to the polls." Though students may not be of voting age, they also are staffing telephone banks after school, urging eligible voters to cast ballots and set a good example for the younger generation.
In Nevada, where SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina will be joining vote canvassers this week, our partners at Mi Familia Vota exceeded their original voter registration goal of 11,000 and signed up more than 19,000 voters before the Oct. 6 deadline.
And in Latino vote-rich states across the South and Southwest, Spanish language media partners are running public service announcements about how, when and where to vote. Newscasts are filled with reports about Latino voter mobilization, about the unprecedented attention being paid to Latino voters by national campaigns and of conservatives' efforts to suppress Latinos' votes. One national Spanish language media group will be renting vans to help get voters to the polls in several states including Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida and Nevada.
The common thread in this historic community outreach is Mi Familia Vota, the non-partisan group founded by Eliseo a dozen years ago to grow the political power of Latinos in the U.S.
Through alliances with pillars of the Latino community -- clergy, schools and media, for example -- the growth of the Latino electorate has been exponential. When more than 42% of the nation's 52.5 million Latinos are eligible to vote, "there is nothing left but to seize this moment and fight for our future," Eliseo noted in a recent Huffington Post blog.
In battleground states like Colorado, Nevada and Florida, Latino voters are poised to determine the outcome of the presidential election.
Latino voters know what is at stake in the 2012 election: the futures of their children, the DREAMers, working families, immigrants and whether they will get the health care, good jobs and good schools that all Americans deserve.
But like the rest of the electorate, the growing din of nonstop electioneering threatens to turn off Latino voters. That is why Eliseo, Mi Familia Vota, and SEIU, have spent weeks in key battleground states, knocking on doors and reminding Latino voters that politicians don't pay attention to those who don't vote. If we want the next Congress to act on our agenda, then we have to make ourselves heard in this election.
The work of groups like Mi Familia Vota has reached a new level of Latino voter outreach.
While using the traditional strategies of neighborhood canvassing and telephone banking, Mi Familia Vota is going into parks, community centers, schools and churches to educate voters about the political process. In coming days, vote "fiestas" in states like Colorado will show voters how to read the ballots, fill out the mail-in ballots, and use laptops to research ballot initiatives and candidates' positions on issues.
On the more creative side, the hip hop Jalapeno Brothers in California have written an anthem for Mi Familia Vota to inspire Latino voters to flex their growing political muscle now and in the future. Their message:
All the muscle that we put in, all the blood that we bled
All the marches that we marched, all the rallies that we led
Yes it all comes together just to make your voice heard
It's the way to make noise and the right that we earned.
So let's make some noise. Let's vote and let's help make history by mobilizing more than 12 million Latino voters on Election Day and strengthening to a new political movement. Together, we can win.