VP Kamala Harris, Stacey Abrams bring messages of persistence to annual Voto Latino summit
Voto Latino’s 13th Annual Power Summit was held between Wednesday, Oct. 6 and Thursday, Oct. 7.
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Between Wednesday, Oct. 6 and Thursday, Oct. 7, Voto Latino, the grassroots political organization focused on empowering a new generation of Latinx voters, held their 13th annual Power Summit.
In 2020, Latinos showed up to the ballots in record numbers, over 16.4 million Latinos casted their votes, according to a City University of New York study. The number of Hispanic registered voters grew by 22.6% from 2016 to 2020 and the Latino vote increased by 29.8% during that time.
Latinx youth played a crucial role in the election turnout. For the first time, over half of all eligible Latinos voted in 2020 and the highest turnout rate was among young people, according to Voto Latino. Around 34% of them voted for the first time.
The Voto Latino Power Summit was a two-day free to attend virtual conference, packed with industry leaders, celebrities, and elected officials to speak on the importance of equity and making one’s voice heard, especially during times of increased attempts at voter suppression.
Among the speakers are Vice President Kamala Harris, actress Melissa Barrera, political leader Stacey Abrams, activist Dolores Huerta, and more.
Harris delivered the opening remarks on Wednesday, urging Congress to act on voting rights bills, in the wake of Florida and Texas passing restrictive voting laws that Democrats claim will suppress voter turnout.
“They saw how many people voted by mail in 2020 — and they are working to cut back drop boxes. They saw how many people voted early in 2020 — and they are working to cut back early voting,” Harris said in recorded remarks that were released in advance of the event.
Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, signed an extensive bill in September after fighting with Democrats for months. In May, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, also a Republican, signed voting legislation that restricts voting by mail and at drop boxes.
This law sparked three separate lawsuits from the League of Women Voters in Florida, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and Demos.
On Tuesday, Sept. 14, a group of eight Democratic senators introduced the Freedom to Vote Act, which focuses on expanding voter access, boosting election integrity and encouraging civil participation.
House Democrats have passed two other bills, the For the People Act, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, but they did not advance in the Senate.
“We need your help to get these bills passed — and in the meantime, we need you to keep doing what you do so well. Keep registering every voter everywhere. In our democracy, there is nothing more sacred, more fundamental, than our vote,” Harris said at the conference.
Voto Latino CEO and co-founder Maria Teresa Kumar said that these “efforts to diminish” Latino participation and disregard their votes are “targeted and unjust.”
She applauded the Biden administration’s efforts to protect voting rights for the Latinx community and emphasized that Latinos make up more than half of the total U.S. population growth in the last decade.
Harris quoted the Latino civil rights pioneer, Willie Velasquez, saying “your vote is your voice.
“The people of our nation must be able to decide the fate of our nation, to determine our future. And therein lies the power of your vote, the power of your voice. And that is why we must fight together to make sure that all voters are heard,” Harris said.
Actress Melissa Barrera, star of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s musical In The Heights, spoke of the import ance of getting involved in politics.
“Not getting involved in politics is like giving away some of my rights as a human being… It’s giving up on myself and my family. My existence is political because I’m a woman of color,” Barrera said.
On day 2 of the summit, Kumar spoke with former House Democrat Stacey Abrams on the significance of fighting voter suppression and showing up every election cycle.
DAY TWO of #VLPowerSummit starts today! We've got a great lineup of guests and presenters, including a keynote conversation with @staceyabrams!— Voto Latino (@votolatino) October 7, 2021
Join us TODAY at 3pm ET/12pm PT for this FREE virtual event!
REGISTER HERE: https://t.co/PYLG0AsAvT pic.twitter.com/1vHJH7jCPe
“We have to remember that persistence is part of it. It’s not going to happen in one moment,” Abrams said.
Abrams compared voting to medicine.
“You have to take it regularly and stay engaged,” she said.