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Fronteras: Jolt Initiative Aims To 'Harness The Power Of Latino Culture'

About 47% of eligible Latino voters in the U.S. cast a ballot in the 2016 election — a trend that portrays this growing demographic as politically uninterested and unengaged. But the historically low turnout rate is the result of an even deeper issue: failed outreach efforts.

Antonio Arellano is interim executive director of Jolt Initiative.

Many grassroots organizations are turning to the communities often overlooked by major campaigns and mobilizing their own efforts to challenge the low Latino voter turnout status quo.

Jolt Initiative is the largest Latino civic engagement organization in Texas. According to the group’s 2018 report “We Are Texas,” Latinos made up just 18% of Texas voters in 2016 despite making up nearly 40% of the state’s population. The demographic is expected to balloon, becoming the majority in Texas by 2030 and Antonio Arellano, Jolt interim executive director, argues campaigns need to improve on hiring culturally competent staff to better engage with this growing community.

“Latinos are not the problem, the problem is that we have a system in place that prioritized middle-class white voters,” said Arellano. “So, if you want Latinos to come out and vote, you need to harness the power of Latino culture so that Latinos can see themselves reflected in politics and as a result, participate.”

With early voting beginning Oct. 13 in Texas, Arellano believes a progressive momentum building in the state will be reflected in this year’s election turnout, fueled primarily by younger Latinos engaging in the democratic process for the first time.

“Both political parties need to recognize that the power the Latino community has is only growing. We're only getting stronger,” said Arellano. “And it would be very wise of them to begin to prioritize us.”

Norma Martinez can be reached at norma@tpr.org and on Twitter at @NormDog1
Lauren Terrazas can be reached at lauren@tpr.org and on Twitter at @terrazas_lauren