Year-round commitment to civic engagement work
At Voces Unidas, we believe that civic engagement work is a year-round commitment to listening and engaging voters. This work starts with developing long-term relationships with our community members and working together to make the connection between the change that we want to see in our communities and the electoral process, for example.
For communities of color, elections cannot be transactional. Especially because far too many of us are disenfranchised and disconnected from these systems. Without a prior relationship based on mutual trust and understanding, a simple text message, phone call or mail piece every November may not have much meaning.
This is why civic engagement work must start with building long-term relationships with voters of color. Right now, disenfranchised communities don’t see themselves in the political ecosystems. We don’t know many of the candidates. Some of us don’t trust if some of these candidates truly understand the issues that we care about. It also does not help that there is hardly any representation of color at the political leadership level.
In the long term, organizations like Voces Unidas must do the hard work in beginning community conversations about problems and solutions and connecting those disenfranchised voters to the electoral process. This work starts with listening and building relationships, which is a year-round endeavor. It requires having dedicated staff for the whole year, not just from August through November. Relationship-building done in February is a stepping stone to the activation work done in November.
When we commit to year-round civic engagement work, we can spend the time and energy to ensure that Latino voters see the ballot as an opportunity to change conditions and to improve outcomes for our community. Whether it’s a ballot question to decide what gets funded, what our constitution protects or who gets to make our laws, our work needs to center on making the connection between voting and changing or improving the status quo via the electoral process.
The future of our valleys, our state and our country depend on a healthy, strong and representative democracy. We can’t get there without Latino voters and our active participation in every civic institution. Voces Unidas understands this and this is why we do this work.