The U.S. has long been a model for democracy, but not everyone has equal access to the voting polls. Through voting rights suppression, gerrymandering, or questioning the legitimacy of our federal voting systems, it’s not hard to see why voter turnout is down.
Engagement in the democratic process by the 60 million Latinos in the U.S. has long been a goal, and one that, in light of attacks on our democracy, has become increasingly important. One civic and social justice organization, Poder Latinx, is working to build a non-partisan Latinx voting block through leadership development and voter engagement for the betterment of the Latinx community, and they are already off to a strong start in the Sunshine State. While the Latinx vote matters on all issues, there is little doubt that the community’s voice on climate is critical. Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities already face the disproportionate consequences of climate change and are willing to act on the issue at a much higher rate than the general U.S. public. In order for BIPOC communities to have their voices heard by politicians—and their role in solving climate recognized—BIPOC voters must make their presence known at the voting polls. Poder Latinx seeks to do that.
Yadira Sanchez, the Executive Director of Poder Latinx, recalls the founding team thinking that “there was a need to take action to restore trust in our voting rights held by every American citizen… by investing in our community and building long-term power to really see change and legislation that protects our community.”
Energy Foundation’s Racial Equity and Democracy (RED) Fund, which seeks to uplift BIPOC-led organizations, and low-income advocates in the fight for equity in climate justice and democracy, as well as the Cities and Southeast programs have partnered with Poder Latinx to support their work.
As Tania Noguera, EF’s Program Lead for Cities, believes, “What makes Poder Latinx unique is the model they bring to all the issues that the Latinx community faces in the U.S. – which they elevated and linked to climate policy.”
Amy Stearns, EF’s Program Associate for the Southeast team praises Poder’s approach to climate change education. “Poder has a strong focus on local Latinx communities and the ways in which climate change disproportionately affects their lives at the forefront. This year they are working on an incredible educational campaign in Arizona, Georgia, and Florida to cultivate a strong understanding of those effects within their communities.”
The recent increase in voter suppression laws continues to worsen accessibility to voting. Nonetheless, Poder is committed to increasing the Latinx voting bloc and having their community’s voice heard in politics. In the first half of 2022, Poder registered 7,666 Florida voters with a mission to register 21,002 by the end of the year. Since being founded in 2019, Poder Latinx has also expanded to Arizona and Georgia and they have already registered 3,017 voters in those states, totalling to 10,683 voters registered this year. They are looking to register a total of 36,456 voters by the end of the year.
Poder has found success with both their traditional and nontraditional outreach strategies. Traditional outreach methods such as canvassing, phone and text banking has allowed them to connect to their communities, but that is not all.
Yadira Sanchez thinks back to how Poder shifted their outreach strategies due to the pandemic. “We got creative. Let’s use our culture, art, and music to reach our community. It can’t be all phone banking and texting banking. We were going to exhaust our community. Let’s reach them the way they consume media.”
Poder has an award winning art gallery Galeria de Colores and collaboration with Chicano music group Las Cafeteras has been well received by the Latinx community. They have also made themselves visible in Latinx homes through a collaboration with Univision where they have been able to spread awareness about the climate crisis and its impacts.
Poder’s climate justice mission reads, “We must protect our environment, our climate, and Madre Tierra’s natural resources. They cannot be taken advantage of for corporate gain or greed, especially at the risk of public safety and health to underrepresented communities. Everyone has the right to clean air, water, and access to public lands. We urge elected officials to fight for climate action now.”
Story author Bresy Pedraza Perez was an Energy Foundation intern in the summer of 2022.