This year, scores of young Latinos will be eligible to vote for the first time in North Carolina. They’ve joined the ranks of more than 300,000 others in the state, who have historically been neglected by the major parties and get-out-the-vote efforts.
But activists see a change coming, and they’re counting on women to make it happen. Arianna Genis and Cris Batista are two organizers with Mijente, a national progressive-activist network, who moved to North Carolina in the past year to help fill the outreach gap. Their 30-person team, which is overwhelmingly Latina, is one strand in a web of Latina organizers who have spent years trying to empower mothers, aunts, daughters, and cousins around the country to see themselves as influential political actors—who not only vote themselves, but compel their communities to turn out too. Latinas could very well become a dominant force in American elections to come, but they have to be convinced of their own power first.
Voting “follows culturally how we keep each other safe,” Batista told me. “We, in our families, lift each other up,” and can do the same “in an intergenerational way by voting. Saying, ‘I am voting with my family, my undocumented family, and my undocumented siblings in mind.’”
Activists have a lot of room to work with. Latinos in general turn out at lower rates than white, Black, or Asian American voters, and the country’s more than 14 million Latina voters turn out at significantly lower rates than other women. North Carolina offers a case study of how nonpartisan groups are trying to mobilize these Democratic-leaning women. If enough of them cast a ballot in North Carolina, they could help elect the first-ever Latino legislator to the state assembly, flip a United States Senate seat, and deny President Donald Trump a second term.