11/03/2014 10:26 pm ET Updated Jan 03, 2015

The Number One Reason for Latinos to Vote

Hill Street Studios/Erik Isakson via Getty Images

With everyone eagerly anticipating the results of the elections on Nov. 4th, it's becoming clear that the Latino community wants to make a statement by showing up at the voting booth. A recent poll by Latino Decisions and NCLR showed that the major reason Latinos in Colorado want to vote in this election is 'make my voice heard.' The poll showed that at 48 percent, that feeling of empowerment far outpaced the next closest reason, 'patriotic duty' at just 19 percent, and support for specific issues, parties, or candidates even lower. A full 89 percent of Latino voters said they were probably or almost certain to vote.

Those numbers are astounding, but they shouldn't be surprising. The Latino community has increased voter participation tremendously in recent years, and all indicators are that it's going to continue to be that way. We're also not limiting our voices to the voting booth. The recent designation of the San Gabriel Mountains as a National Monument by President Obama didn't happen on its own, it followed ten years of advocacy by a number of groups, organizations and community leaders, including many Latinos. The San Gabriel Mountains was also important because it didn't happen strictly to protect recreational space. The mountains provide one-third of Los Angeles County's clean drinking water, a county where 48.3 percent of residents are Latino, and are still having to cut down on water use due to drought conditions resulting from climate change.

Latinos are standing up and speaking out, and it's happening here in Colorado too. I currently work with Conservation Colorado directing an effort called Protégete: Nuestro Aire, Nuestra Salud. I work with organizers and community volunteers every single day who are taking action to respond to the impact that carbon pollution and climate change are having on the health of our families. Last month after collecting thousands of signatures, we built support at the Denver City Council and they approved a proclamation calling for greater investment in clean energy and clean air. Now we're focusing on Aurora, pursuing the same commitment to bringing the region's air quality back to an acceptable standard.

We couldn't have done this alone. Our organizers went out into the community and found people eager to help. People like Steve: a retiree who struggles to breathe as a result of working at a dirty, coal-fired power plant for many years and feels a personal responsibility to warn others about the dangerous toxins emitted from power plants. We also have a loyal family of three, the concerned mother whose child struggles to breathe from asthma worsened by poor air quality, and her two kids, who spend two nights a week volunteering with Protégete. For them, these issues are personal. We also sent two of our organizers to New York for the People's Climate March, because our voices needed to be heard there as well.

The reason President Obama took the action he did on the San Gabriel Mountains is because we stood up and spoke out. Now we have to show up to vote, to make it clear we care about clean air and a healthier future for our children and grandchildren, and that we expect our elected officials to respond to that too. We want our voices heard.

Dulce Saenz is the Latino Organizing Program Director for Protégete: Nuestro Aire, Nuestra Salud, on Facebook at