Culture

Why Texas’ Young Latinx Voters are Showing Up at the Polls

Leading up to the Nov. 3 elections, Texas has shocked the nation with its unusually high early voter turnout. As of Oct. 28, the Texas Tribune reports, 51% of registered Texas voters have already cast their ballots, putting the state on track to easily surpass its 2016 overall voting totals by election day next Tuesday. This unprecedented trend, along with other factors, has caused political analysts to rethink Texas’ longtime standing as a non-voting, deeply red state. There’s no telling which way the votes will go yet, but in this election, Texas is shaping up to be a political battleground.

One key factor in the state’s voting surge is the large amount of “young” Texans voting. According to Tufts Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, the number of early voters in this age group – between 18 and 29 years old – increased by 610% this year, compared to the 2016 elections.

In terms of Texas voters, “young” also means “Latinx,” since about 41% of the state’s eligible Latinx voters are between the ages of 18 and 33, the Pew Research Center reports. Young Texas Latinxs, analysts believe, have the potential to greatly shift Texas politics for years to come. And amid the growing influence of this largely left-leaning group, it behooves local and state-level leaders to address the issues that this diverse voting bloc cares about the most.

We talked to eight Latinx Texans to learn about why they’re voting, the issues that drive them, and their hopes for the future of politics and society, en Tejas and the United States.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Why did you vote in this election?

Juan Preciado, 27, Dallas, Full-time Student & Former Military
“I definitely felt a lot of urgency. The past four years have just been horrible. It started off with the immigration ban, the impeachment, the shutdown, the mass shootings, and the pandemic now. Trump doesn’t know how to lead as a president, and it’s so disappointing as a country to know that this is our leader; this is who is representing us right now. That for me was like, you know what? I’m going to do everything I can during the midterms, to make sure we get the right people in office, to make sure people register to vote, and make sure that they understand what’s going on, and to let them know that they don’t have to settle for this.”

I think local elections excite me more than presidential elections, especially this year.

Angel Ulloa, 24, El Paso, Environmental Organization Coordinator
“I voted, even though I, just like many others, wasn’t excited for the presidential election. I felt like it was a settle for Biden type of thing.

I think local elections excite me more than presidential elections, especially this year. I’m involved with a group here called the Sunrise Movement, in the El Paso hub. We work closely with candidates here that are running in local government. I think that my vote makes more of an impact and I’m able to see more of a difference when I vote in local elections.

Some people are pretty prideful about only voting locally and I’m not going to lie at the beginning I didn’t want to vote for either of [the presidential candidates], but I have friends who are like, ‘Well, I’m undocumented or I’m LGBTQ and I don’t want a president anymore that hates me or hates my people, so I’d rather have Biden over Trump any day.’ So that was a motivator for me to push my pride to the side and vote Biden and give him that vote.”

What issues/policies motivated you to vote?

Ysatis Gonzalez, 22, Laredo, Student
Education is really the biggest issue for me. I am a student and I pay for all of my college by myself. I do get a little bit of FAFSA, but I’m trying to keep my student loans in an affordable range. Obviously I have to work to pay for my classes and especially right now. Part of me paying for my classes depends on what I’m making at work, I’m a server so I make tips and there’s this big struggle between wanting to make money at work and also not wanting to get sick.

Right now I’m a full-time student at the University of Houston, but the past few semesters I was part time because I didn’t know if I could afford full classes at U of H. It’s so much more expensive than community college classes. If education is something you wanna pursue, it shouldn’t depend on whether or not you can afford it. Making education much more affordable and one day hopefully free would be something that would help.

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Ileane Marquez, 19, Houston, Student
“I really care about immigration reform. Last year in April, my step dad was taken by ICE.
I experienced the hardships of what Trump decided would be his immigration policy, so I held that so closely to my heart because of how much it affected me and my family.

It’s really heartbreaking that peoples’ moral compass is destroyed and that they think they’re doing right by what they believe. Those kids in cages should not be there. Knowing that I had family in a deportation camp…it was shocking because you always hear about it and when you’re the one going through it it’s totally different. That’s the biggest part that influenced me to vote for Biden and Harris, even though they might not stand on some issues that I think are very important, they’re still a better option rather than having four more years of what Trump thinks is best.”

Ulloa:
“Something that’s been talked about more is climate change, and I don’t mean like the superficial, ‘Don’t use plastic straws,’ or ‘Use reusable water bottles,’. We need to get to the corporations that are causing climate change, especially because we’re seeing a lot of the detrimental effects here in El Paso. We have a pipeline that runs through the Permian Basin and the Permian Basin is the largest fracking site here in the U.S., so obviously it’s affecting our air quality a lot. We’re already a dry city, but people when they come from out of town, they’re like, ‘I can’t even run here, my lungs burn.’ So that’s a huge thing, it’s something that’s on my mind often.”

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Tristan Garcia, 25, Crystal City, Community Outreach Specialist
“I wanted to vote this year because there are a lot of my rights [as a trans, queer identifying man] that will be taken away. During the pandemic, the Supreme Court ruled that doctors can basically deny trans people care. As a trans person that scares me. I’m glad my doctor would never do that to me, but I’m very privileged. Whereas people who live in smaller towns in Texas or in a community where being trans isn’t welcome, you’re going to find doctors who are going to deny trans patients like nobody’s business. So getting that care taken away from you is very scary.

In general it’s very traumatizing because one day a doctor could say, “No, I’m not gonna help you,” and then I’ll have to start looking for another doctor. And it’s very hard for me to look for doctors in Texas, just because people don’t necessarily advertise like, ‘We have gender nonconforming services.’ I try to make sure all the doctors I go to are LGBTQ friendly at least because I want to be able to feel safe and not threatened at a place.”

I’d like to see more accessible health care for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Gabi Antuna, 20, San Antonio, Student
“Since I do work with Planned Parenthood and the healthcare system, I’d like to see more accessible health care for LGBTQ+ individuals. We often go into spaces that we feel unwelcome in, and we don’t receive the same provision of care. There’s a lack of trust, and we want more participatory decision making as well. I feel like we often feel alienated when we go to receive healthcare and stuff like that.

I work in HIV surveillance and I feel like the healthcare providers aren’t really understanding our situation or a lot of the discrimination that we face even in a healthcare setting or at home. So, I’m pushing for more inclusive healthcare policies. I feel that the Trump administration has been trying to enforce some really scary measures lately, especially in regards to trans individuals.”

Ric Galván, 20, San Antonio, Student
“I think the biggest thing right now for a lot of people is rising property taxes, which of course raises mortgages and rent for people. I think rising rent in general, and gentrification as well, are all big things that affect everyone, but especially Latinx people in Texas. A lot of people say that we need to make sure property taxes are lower, but you can’t just say, ‘Let’s just cut property taxes,’ because the reason property taxes are so high is because we’ve cut educational funding in Texas and that’s forced local areas to have to rely on property taxes, raising them so they can afford to keep their schools running.

We need to invest in our education from a state level and probably from a federal level, too, in dramatic ways because we’ve cut it so much and we always consider it expendable, and that affects communities as a whole.

I’m still very lucky that I’ve been able to keep the house I’ve lived in all my life. My mom is a single parent and she’s been doing everything she can to raise me and my brother in this house that we grew up in, but it’s been hard. My mom being a teacher’s assistant, she’s paid a lot less and the mortgage costs about 90% of my mom’s income, so me and my brother are chipping in.”

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla

Tristan Garcia:

“Black Lives Matter is another reason I voted. This administration isn’t doing a good job in handling the racial justice situation. It’s crazy because the whole coronavirus situation wasn’t handled very well and the fact that racial injustices are happening at the same time and have been happening for years, I think we need to take another step forward and address it because police brutality isn’t being handled well at all. The fact that I have Black friends that literally have to watch their back constantly when they cross the street because they never know what’s going to happen, or the fact that they have to be scared more than me is sad and very real, so I had to show up, I had to show up for them. I graduated in 2017 with a bachelors in criminal justice and it’s crazy because I went into public health instead. Partially why I didn’t go into the criminal justice field is because it is a system that I didn’t like. It doesn’t even need to be fixed, it needs to be torn down and we need to build a new one. I feel like us trying to fix something that was never for the people would never be helpful at all. It’s like a leaky pipe, it will constantly be leaky.”

Nayeli Pérez, 26, El Paso, Designer
“I grew up in a very Catholic environment. My parents are really religious and I am religious as well, but I’m a very socially liberal Catholic. I really believe that Catholics who are super pro-life and one-issue voters, I think that if there’s enough conversation then maybe they can see that it’s not good to be a one-issue voter. That’s been an interesting thing for me. I don’t think God wanted us to be one-issue voters because there’s more nuance.

What are your hopes for the future of Texas and U.S. politics?

Antuna:
“I hope that young Texas Latinx voters are able to use our identities as a motivating force to go show up and participate more. I feel like, for me, I had a hard time accepting my identity [as a queer Latinx] especially here in Texas where lawmakers are often against us and use harmful tactics to oppress us. I feel like we need to educate ourselves. Within our bases we need to inform people about how we’ve been oppressed and how Texas continues to do so and creates legislation and harmful policies that really do not benefit us whatsoever. So I feel like if we’re able to find confidence in our identities and find spaces that can really help us grow and develop I think that’ll be a really motivating factor to participate.”

I hope that after Nov. 3, or even after this year, that people don’t lose momentum because I tend to see that.

Ulloa:
“This seems like this is the first year where we really have a chance of turning Texas blue. It’s very symbolic of where we are and what we’re fighting for.

There’s that statistic that Latinos will be the majority in Texas, and so a lot of us are like, ‘We need a government that shows that, that represents that. How are we gonna have these white men in politics telling us what to do when we’re the majority here?’

I hope that after Nov. 3, or even after this year, that people don’t lose momentum because I tend to see that. I tend to see that people are very excited during the election but then they’re not there the other days of the year, which is super important, too.

It took a lot for me to convince my parents to get registered to vote and get out and vote. I’m sure it’s a struggle for Latinx since we don’t see people like us in politics and we don’t see where we fit into politics. But I think that’s changing. And honestly, I think our generation is the reason for that change.”

Credits 

Written by Camille Garcia

Illustrated by Stephany Torres

Edited by Erika Ramirez

Produced by Itzel Alejandra Martinez