orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

November 5, 2012

Binders Full of Voters: Activating the Texas Electorate

HOUSTON, Texas — Some are retired, some are students. Some are paid, others volunteer. Yet they all share a single goal. For weeks, a wide range of nonpartisan organizations across Texas have been training teams to knock on doors, make phone calls and drive people to the polls. Although they do not tell anyone how to vote, they are passionate about their message: Participating in elections is worth the effort. 

Canvassers with the Houston branch of the Texas Organizing Project (TOP) Education Fund - Rosa Garcia, Antonio Coronado and Sylvia Gonzales - all cite different reasons for getting involved.

[Garcia:] "The reason I started was because I needed a job, and now I see that I can make a difference." [Coronado:] "My main concern is to be part of the future, and be a better citizen for this country." [Gonzales:] "I'm a single mother, and I feel I'm doing something good for my kids."

With hundreds working in the field statewide, TOP targets infrequent voters - particularly those in Latino communities. Latinos now comprise 26 percent of the state's nearly 13 million registered voters. However, at least in recent elections, the Latino turnout rate has been lower than that of other groups.

Recent culinary-school graduate Ashley Estevan volunteers in the impoverished Rio Grande Valley. She says about half her time is spent motivating people who are struggling and have lost faith in politics.

"They are like, 'No - I've been let down so much by our elected officials over the last few years that I just don't feel like if I vote it'll make a difference.'"

She says she has persuaded many to vote by shifting attention from national politics to local issues. That is a familiar refrain among canvassers throughout Texas, where the outcome of the presidential race is already a near certainty.

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