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'If you're not at the table, you're on the menu': Increasing Latino voter turnout in California

"I didn't believe my vote mattered until I was really engaged with communities. Our vote is our voice, our voice is our vision," said Kimberly Gudino, Brown Issues.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Kimberly Gudino, who's from South Sacramento, has been voting consecutively since the age of 18. She began her voter journey as a student at Luther Burbank High School.

During an afterschool program, Gudino says she was encouraged to vote by a group called "Brown Issues." It's a statewide youth leadership organization dedicated "to cultivating the next generation of Brown leaders through civic engagement, narrative change, and healing."

"I loved it so much," Gudino said. "There were real conversations that we were not having in the classroom, so it was a space that I wanted to continue to be part of."

Credit: Kimberly Gudino, Brown Issues

Now, Gudino serves as the Deputy Director of Brown Issues. She works with the organization to empower others in Latino communities to vote.

"If you're not at the table, you're on the menu," said Gudino. "It's important to engage young people and bring their voices to the table and make sure that our voices are being represented. We want young people, that look like us, from our community to see themselves as voters."

Credit: Kimberly Gudino, Brown Issues

Voters in California are mostly White, according to a 2020 survey from the Public Policy Institute of California. It shows 47% of Latinos and 54% of Asian Americans and African Americans are likely to vote, compared to 65% of White people.

The Latino Community Foundation is working to close the voter racial gap by re-launching the "Yo Voy a Votar" campaign. It involves investing $50 million in total to 13 grassroot organizations, like Brown Issues.

"These organizations know our community best," said Max Vargas, Vice President of Economic Justice, Latino Community Foundation. "They're Latino leaders in our community and organizational leaders. We're investing in them so they can continue voter engagement."

Credit: Latino Community Foundation

In April, the Foundation conducted the largest poll of Latino voters in the state. It shows only 63% of Latino voters plan to vote in the general election in November. For Latino voters, the poll also found inflation, cost of living, and housing affordability were the top three issues.

According to the LCF, there are about 8 million registered Latino voters in California — more than any other state in the country. The Foundation wants to mobilize Latino voters to help make a positive change, locally and nationally. 

“The pillar of a democratic nation that is only 246 years old is anchored in the civic engagement of voters who reflect the demographics and values of our country,” said Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of Latino Community Foundation. “Investing in grassroot organizations that mobilize and inform these voters is how we shore up our civic infrastructure and defend our fragile democracy.”  

Brown Issues is using the funds from LCF to host "voter pop-up" events throughout the state. LCF also plans to hold a town hall in the coming days to ensure the voice of Latino people and their communities are heard.

Credit: Brown Issues

"We've been popping up in communities," said Gudino. "That includes low-income communities and Latino communities to engage community members around the importance of voting. I didn't believe that my vote mattered until I was really engaged with communities and realized that our vote is our voice, our voice is our vision. We have to pay attention to that and take action."

To learn more about LCF and how to register to vote, visit the LCF website. The Foundation is investing in the following organizations:

Statewide

Los Angeles

Orange County

Central Valley

San Jose/Central Valley 

Inland Empire

Central Coast 

Watch more from ABC10: Hispanic and Latinos: What's the difference?

  

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