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Columbus Activists Work To Mobilize Latino Voters: 'Their Vote Does Make A Difference'

Liliana Vasquez, president of Columbus Council of LULAC, talks with Latina residents.
Liliana Vasquez, president of Columbus Council of LULAC, talks with Latina residents.

As the October 5 voter registration deadline approaches in Ohio, the push is on by the Franklin County Adelante Democrats to sign up more Latino voters.

“We’re really trying to make an effort on targeting young Latinos who may be eligible to vote for the first time, especially since 2016,” says Monica Cerrezuela, chair of the Franklin County Adelante Democrats.

"Adelante" is a word meaning "moving forward." Cerrezuela has volunteered with the group since 2014, when it restarted its efforts in Central Ohio.

The 2010 U.S. Census estimates Latinos make up about 3.2% of the Ohio population, or more than 350,000. (By 2019, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the group had almost doubled to 5.9% of the state population.) Of those, Cerrezuela says 199,000 are eligible voters.

Cerrezuela says President Trump’s immigration policies and slow response to the coronavirus pandemic have negatively affected Latino communities – who are disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

“We have so many Latinos here in the United States and in Ohio who have family members that are living abroad, or may be living in the shadows, and they are a result of President Trump’s policies that he put forth during his years in office, and now they’re suffering the consequences,” Cerrezuela says.

Cerrezuela hopes that sharing the difficult economic stories of Black and Brown communities, which have worsened since the pandemic began, will enforce their message that it is time for new leadership.

“My group and so many other groups are really trying to talk to Latino voters, get them to understand why this election is so important and really understand what motivates them and try to get them registered and understanding how they can vote this election cycle in a safe and secure way,” Cerrezuela says.

Cerrezeula says drive-through events have provided one way to spread the word about the election, while lowering the risk of COVID-19.

“We’re no longer doing in-person meetings,” Cerrezuela says. “Instead of doing fundraisers, you may see a virtual fundraiser. You may see more text banks and phone banks.”

Liliana Vasquez, president of the Columbus Council of LULAC (League of United Latin American Citizens), says her organization is working to identify residents who are eligible to become citizens, and help them with the process and register them to vote. Through LULAC's work, 30 Latino residents are now ready to participate in U.S. elections.

“Where previously the attitude was like, 'My vote isn’t going to make a difference,' I feel like we’ve moved past that and now people are realizing their vote does make a difference,” Vasquez says.

Cerrezuela says the upcoming election has immediate consequences for some of the biggest issues of the day.

“People understand that people that we elect, you know, they’re the ones who are going to be the ones making policy choices that have to do with police reform, how we respond to a global pandemic,” says Cerrezuela. “So, I do think the Latino community is realizing how important it is to elect good people into office.”

Early voting in Ohio begins on October 6.

Debbie Holmes has worked at WOSU News since 2009. She has hosted All Things Considered, since May 2021. Prior to that she was the host of Morning Edition and a reporter.