The Santa Clara County State of Raza Voting in 2020

Joseph Karl Soltero | Special to El Observador
Photo Credit: Unsplash

Remember how media pundits were proclaiming that the “Sleeping Giant” had awakened when they talked about the growing political and economic strength of La Raza Hispanics in America?

In California, it appears that La Raza has hit the snooze button on their alarm clocks and phones because the simple truth is that Raza does not vote in the large numbers possible.

In an attempt to determine why, The Congressional Hispanic Caucus conducted surveys and focus groups to try to understand why Raza does not vote. Two reasons emerged: A lack of candidates that Raza identifies with and candidates that Raza feels neglects them.

The feeling that the economy largely benefits the wealthy and stagnant wages prevents Raza families from moving ahead creates a sense of apathy and a feeling that the political system simply does not care about its concerns such as ‘jobs having career ladders’, immigration and health care. Another factor that is coming more into play is the 18-year-old Raza millennial voters.

Young people have not yet become fully engaged as voters. As a result of poor political campaign targeting by Democratic, Independent, and Republican Parties involvement and engagement are not promoted. These are some of the potential reasons that have been identified by The Hispanic Caucus.

According to the Pew Research Center, there are an estimated two million Latinos in California who are eligible to vote and remain unregistered.

The California-Mexico Center reports that there are 7.9 million registered Latino voters in California, yet the 2016 election turnout reveals that 47.6% voted. Sadly, this is less than the 48 percent who voted in 2012. Keep in mind that there are 15 million Latinos in California.

How can Latinos not turn out when you consider Trump’s infamous remarks as he announced his run for president when he characterized Mexicans as criminals, rapists and drug dealers and that Mexico would pay for that border wall.

As the saying goes, “all politics is local.” So, let us look at Santa Clara County Latino voting patterns. With a population of 1.9 million residents, Latinos make up approximately 25% of the population yet among eligible Latino voters only 36% voted in the 2018 mid-term election; while 61 percent of non-Asian/non-Latino voters turned out to vote.

Ed Murillo, a longtime employee of the Santa Clara Office of the Registrar of Voters, states that Raza in Santa Clara County and California “are at a pivotal point in history”. He reminds us all of the passage of California State Senate Resolution 450: The “Voter Choice Act” that will hopefully bring more people, especially Raza to the polls.

The creation of EVC’s, Early Voting Centers, will allow voters, especially those who live in rural, remote isolated areas of California a chance to do their civic voting duty.

Citing the size of Santa Clara County, Murillo states that there are 14 voting districts which means monolingual voters often don’t know where to vote and that polling stations sometimes don’t have Spanish-speaking poll-workers to help these voters who are often first-time voters who can be intimidated by the process as well as ‘white supremacists.

State-wide, The Latino Community Foundation is focused on voter turnout by young Latinos (remember you can now vote at age 18). Yet among Latino voters 18 to 24, only 30 percent turned out to vote, so the foundation conducted research on why young Latinos don’t vote. Among their recommendations were:

1) Expose Latino youth to voting early and often with high school voter education weeks.

2) Promote the use of student poll worker service with class credit and/or pay.

3) Utilize technology and mass media more consistently. Youth prefer digital media to learn and to communicate.

Sixteen (16) and 17-year-old students can be targeted for pre-registration for elections when they turn 18. In addition, the California Motor Voter Law allows students and adults the convenient opportunity to register to vote when they visit the DMV.

As for adults, the foundation encourages individuals to become engaged; attend school board meetings and city council meetings; talk to people about issues and for parents, get involved in school affairs when possible.

One way to motivate more Latino voter turnout is to educate them on the history of minority voting in California and America. Latinos and African American voters faced racist poll workers who intimidated people from voting until the passage of the 1965 Voter Rights Act signed by President Johnson.

That legislation outlawed poll taxes (you had to pay a tax to vote!). It also outlawed outlandish literacy tests and the infamous test of asking certain voters to accurately guess the number of jellybeans in a jar or face disqualification from voting.

Beatings and lynching of African American and Latino voting rights activists were common during the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Locally, the CSO (The Community Service Organization) led by civil rights activist Cesar Chavez, Blanca Alvarado and Dolores Huerta in the 1950’s did voter registration drives. Cesar’s sister Rita Chavez-Medina led these drives while being threatened and called a “communist agitator” by right-wing elements in the area.

So please think of the struggles and sacrifices of our community leaders, parents and grandparents, and our community’s members of the “Greatest Generations”. Think of the sacrifices of our brave soldiers during World War II during which Hispanics were awarded 60 Congressional Medals of Honor; more were awarded during the conflicts in the Middle East so that you would have a chance to vote in peace and security.

Hopefully the political climate we live in today will cause you to experience a righteous indignation that will motivate you to vote to change local, state and national elected officials who do not act in your personal best interests.

If you have any questions about how to and where to register to vote in Santa Clara County you may call the Santa Clara County Office of the Registrar if Voter at 408-299-8683. There are Spanish-language staff available if needed. So please be a responsible resident citizen: REGISTER TO VOTE AND MOST IMPORTANTLY VOTE on March 3, 2020