You Have a Voice

"Be the change you want to see in the world."

Those wise words attributed to Gandhi have so much meaning for us, the Latino community. After all, what better way to change the world than by using your vote?

So often I hear people saying, 'Why isn't someone doing something? Why doesn't the Government listen to us?' But, what if that 'someone' is YOU? What if that person who is going to be heard is YOU?

When I was a kid living in Tijuana, I thought that one day someone will come and save the world. Today as an adult I understand that the responsibility for making the world a better place is mine and yours. It's up to us. Today we all have the opportunity to be a part of the change that Mahatma Gandhi spoke about, the change that we are craving as Latinos. It's time to wake up and be the change and for this change to happen, we have to get out there and vote. We've all worked hard for our right to vote, so let's use our vote.

As the Latino population in the United States rapidly grows, so does its influence on the electorate. There is absolutely no doubt the Latino vote will matter a great deal in 2016. And yet, Latino Americans are less likely to be registered to vote than white or black Americans. According to 2013 data from Gallup, only 51 percent of all eligible Latino residents were registered to vote in the 2012 federal elections. At the same time, 85 percent of white voters, 60 percent of Asian voters, and 81 percent of black voters were registered. Similar numbers held for the 2014 midterm elections: 25.2 million Latinos were eligible to vote, but the number of Latino voters was even lower than the already low nationwide turnout of 37 percent.

The changing Latino demographic has been chronicled extensively throughout the last few election cycles. The Latino voting bloc has been constantly expanding as more and more immigrants become citizens and attain voting rights. We are now the largest ethnic minority group in the United States. In 1990, the Latino population amounted to 22 million, or only nine percent of the total population. By 2013, Latinos in the United States numbered 54 million, or 17 percent of the total population. Recent projections estimate that by 2060 Latinos will account for 31 percent of the total population. Additionally, the Latino voting has also shifted over time. With US born Latinos turning 18 and becoming eligible to vote, they will add roughly 500 - 600,000 Latino voters to the voting rolls each year.

So, clearly, we're not going away. In fact, we're becoming a force to be reckoned with. But what we're lacking is a voice. And that isn't because we don't have the right to vote. It's because we choose not to vote. An extraordinarily high number of us who have actually taken the trouble to register to vote, still don't turn out on election day.

Why is that? Why do so many of us who have worked hard to achieve voting status then stay home when election results can have such a dramatic effect on our lives? Are we afraid? I don't think so. Latinos who have given up everything to come here to the US, and struggled to support themselves and their families are hardly fearful. Are we lazy? Absolutely not. We have a strong work ethic, and a great determination to succeed. Are we apathetic? No. Surveys indicate we care deeply about important issues like education and the economy, as well as immigration. So perhaps it's because too many of us feel that our vote doesn't count. But I'm here to tell you it not only counts - it's essential.

If we unify, we count. As a cohesive group, we have enormous power. And we should use it to ensure the successful future of our children and the United States of America.

When President Obama ran in 2008 and 2012, racial issues were brought to the forefront. This galvanized the black voters, who turned out in force and changed the face of American history. Thanks to recent events, not least of all the incendiary and insulting words of Donald Trump, attention is now focused on us in the 2016 presidential race. We have to unify and show we have the power to change. We have to change our attitudes in order to accept that, finally, we have a voice. And our voice is powerful.

When Hillary Clinton lost in her previous bid to become the Democratic Party's 2008 presidential candidate, she proudly announced to those who had voted for her 'Although we were not able to shatter that highest and hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you it has 18 million cracks in it'. Well, my friends, we can make over 50 million cracks in every glass ceiling, and every proposed wall between the US and Mexico. That's power!

I began with a quote from Gandhi, and will end with one: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win."

Let's unify, get out there and vote, and prove we Latinos are all winners.