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Citizens in Illinois, motivated to vote despite the covid-19 pandemic | The race

I used to go knocking on doors and taking part in events to encourage potential voters to go to the polls. But the covid-19 pandemic has made things different now, says María de Jesús González, known in the community as Doña Chuy. She is 74 years old and for the first time she voted by mail in the 2020 presidential election.

Doña Chuy has participated in three presidential elections as a volunteer with the community organization Mujeres Latinas en Acción. She suffers from asthma and as a person vulnerable to the coronavirus this time she decided to support in a different way: “I am making calls from home encouraging people to go out and vote.”

Since becoming a citizen in 1995, she has participated in electoral processes in person and in advance. But because of the coronavirus this time he voted by mail. She says that her son Elías González, a 35-year-old millennial, helped her with the process of registering to vote by mail. “I confess that the covid-19 pandemic and voting by mail have been a challenge for me, because I did not know how to use the computer. Luckily I have my son who has helped me and I have already learned from his advice ”.

When calling voters on the phone, Doña Chuy says that some of the numbers are wrong and some families do not want to speak, but that most people are motivated to go out and vote. They tell her about their concerns about the pandemic, they mention that they prefer to vote by mail and early, although there are those who have told her that they will vote on Election Day, November 3.

Doña Chuy is 74 years old and voted by mail for the first time in the 2020 presidential elections. (Courtesy of Mujeres Latinas en Acción)

Doña Chuy is satisfied to have paid by mail because the important thing for her is that the decision to vote must always be made. “We cannot spend our whole life thinking that we cannot make a difference, if we are permanent residents and become citizens we will have the same rights, for example the right to vote and the right to be recognized as contributors to this community” .

Volunteers with the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (ICIRR) have already made 600,000 calls to promote the vote, according to numbers announced at an event in front of the Cook County early voting site in downtown Chicago on Saturday. October 24th.

And by Election Day, these volunteers are expected to have made a million calls inviting immigrant Illinois voters to go to the polls.

ICIRR and its allied organizations have so far registered more than 6,000 new voters.

“Our goal is to register 10,000 new voters during this period, June through November, and get 275,000 voters to vote in the state of Illinois,” said Artemio Arreola, ICIRR Director of Community Relations.

Among ICIRR’s campaigns is the Democracy Project, an initiative to promote civic participation in immigrant communities in Chicago and suburbs. This effort also seeks to advance the constitutional amendment on the “fair tax.” According to members of the Democracy Project, at least 75% of immigrant voters support this initiative.

The “fair tax” amendment to the Illinois Constitution proposes that people who earn more than $ 250,000 a year pay a higher rate on their state income taxes, while people who earn less than $ 250,000 pay a lower rate. The amendment would generate billions of dollars in new revenue for the state.

That citizens go out to vote

The effort of several organizations to register new voters began in the summer, when it was seen the need to increase efforts so that COVID-19 was not an excuse not to go to vote, said Imelda Salazar, community organizer of the Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP).

Efforts and strategies were focused on reaching all potential voters, especially young people who are going to the polls for the first time and people who have become citizens by naturalization and will vote for the first time, said Salazar. “It is important that the community is represented and exercises that right to vote and that they do so in an informed manner.”

To get people to vote, volunteers stood outside churches, community clinics, laundries, public schools, stores, organizations and hospitals to register voters. And now they are making phone calls from homes, Salazar told La Raza.

Angee Peralta, volunteer leader with SWOP, said many of the people she has provided information and assistance to wanted to vote by mail and early to avoid the spread of coronavirus and long lines at polling places on Wednesday. general elections.

Among the 20 volunteers that Peralta directs, there are from a minor under 14 to a 65-year-old.

Democracy Project is an initiative of ICIRR and other organizations to promote civic participation in immigrant communities in Chicago and suburbs. (Courtesy ICIRR)

Sandra Hernández, who works for the Democracy Project and is a volunteer leader with the organization Mujeres Latinas en Acción, said that she has noticed a lot of interest from people in participating and exercising their right to vote in these presidential elections despite the pandemic.

Outside the supermarkets, the people closest to Hernández and his volunteers were seniors. They asked how they could request their ballot by mail and were informed and assisted in that process.

When they called the houses to boost the vote, people would say, for example, “You know what, I’m not very good with technology.” For this reason, volunteers went outside the houses to register citizens as voters, with a tablet or laptop in hand, Hernández explained to La Raza.

Hundreds of volunteers were trained to drive civic participation through voting and in computer technologies and applications, ICIRR organizers said.

Arreola said that his organization will be monitoring the main voting centers where the immigrant majority go. “In the areas where we have people and organizations, to see that the boxes are opened on time, that there are no setbacks, that everything is normal and we will have a group of lawyers collaborating who will be available to verify any anomaly.”

Arreola emphasized that “it is estimated that we have 32 million potential voters out of the 60 million Latinos who live in the United States. It is said that we are the largest minority and with a latent voting power. The important thing is that this larger minority must be heard. They will not listen to us if we do not raise our voice and our vote is our voice ”.

The Spanish Voter Protection Hotline to ask questions or report wrongdoing is: 866-296-8686.

Editorial coverage of La Raza is made possible in part by the Chicago Community Trust, the Field Foundation of Illinois, the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism / Facebook Journalism Project, and the Google News Initiative. We appreciate your support of our journalistic work.