If there is one day this year that will determine the future of the Latino community, it is November 4. With Latinos poised to influence the outcomes of key races nationwide, it is crucial for us to vote.
Unfortunately, Latinos, the elderly, and low-income and Millennial voters will find themselves in the middle of a decades-old fight, as they face increased obstacles to voting due to ongoing efforts to block their voting rights. As a Millennial myself, this issue is of great concern to me.
1965 witnessed the passage of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), designed to enforce constitutional guarantees to equal protection and the right to vote regardless of race or color. These valuable voting protections were thrown out last year when the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, gutted the VRA in Shelby v. Holder. The Court removed voting protections for minorities by invalidating rules that policed voting rights violations in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination at the polls. It is not insignificant that approximately 32 percent of Latinos live in those jurisdictions.
The effects of Shelby were immediate, with many states enacting restrictive voter laws, such as requiring that the name on an ID match exactly the name on the voter rolls. This particular issue is especially burdensome for women, who generally turn out to vote in greater numbers than men and 90 percent of whom change their legal name due to marriage or divorce. These new laws have also disproportionately affected Millennial voters and minority voters, who are often overlapping demographics, especially in the Latino community, where the median age is 27 years, compared to 42 years for the average American.
Conservatives cite voter fraud prevention as the reason for these restrictive laws, but their indisputable effect has been not the prevention of voter fraud, but the disenfranchisement of Millennial, female, and minority voters, as well as elderly voters who no longer drive, have expired passports and likely do not possess the forms of ID specified in the new voter laws.
Congress must enact laws that make it easier for all Americans to register to vote -- and easier for them to actually vote. They can start by enacting legislation to update the Voting Rights Act, thereby reversing the disastrous effects of Shelby, and improving the average voter's access to the polls -- regardless of race, geographic location and income -- by providing same-day voter registration and early voting nationwide.
However, with Congress unable to break through the partisan standoff that keeps topics like voter protection off the table, non-partisan groups like Voto Latino have stepped up efforts to inform voters about these critical issues and make sure they can vote tomorrow.
Leading up to tomorrow's election, Voto Latino and a host of other groups offer links to information that will give voters their polling location, ballot summaries, and voter ID requirements in their particular state. It is imperative that each of us knows the requirements in our state. When many are trying to keep us away from the polls, we will turn out armed with knowledge, and we will not be dissuaded from exercising our constitutional right to vote.
To keep our communities informed, Voto Latino and nine Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander groups issued score cards earlier this year rating Congress's handling of the immigration issue. This fall, in partnership with Mi Familia Vota Education Fund and more than 85 other national groups, Voto Latino led an online and on-the-ground national voter registration campaign called #PowerOfOurVote that targeted the fast-growing Latino population across the U.S. When others are trying to keep us away from the polls, our goal was to empower Latinos to get each other to register and tomorrow, to vote.
Only by voting tomorrow and coming to the polls prepared and informed about our state's voting requirements, can we elect leaders who will protect our rights -- including our right to vote. In time, the power of our vote will force Congress to return to the legacy of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and restore equality and justice for all, including for Latinos.
Our voice is powerful, and with Election Day less than 24 hours away, it's time for us to make our voices heard and not let the Shelby decision stand in our way. Those who run into conflicts on Election Day should call 1-866-OUR-VOTE. For assistance in Spanish, call 1-800-VE-Y-VOTA.