/ Blog Post
By Cesar Ruiz, a 2021 Equal Justice Works Fellow sponsored by The Lavan Harris Family. Cesar is hosted by LatinoJustice PRLDEF in New York.
My Equal Justice Works Fellowship project stems from the political and socio-economic reality of millions of Latinx individuals throughout our country. Particularly, in New York and Florida, where Latinx communities make up between 15% and 20% of each state’s voting age population, yet lack meaningful representation and engagement in key political processes.
As a result, Latinx voices go unheard and political actors and systems have been able to avoid accountability when it comes to issues that deeply impact the Latinx community. My works aims to help improve access through voting rights and redistricting education, engagement, and advocacy efforts.
The sad reality is that voter denial and voter dilution permeate voting policies and practices at the federal level and throughout the states of New York and Florida. These efforts exist to deprive Latinx communities access to political representation and crucial resources. Voter denial practices, such as recent restrictions on the ability to vote by mail in Florida, serve to curtail an individual’s right to vote. Voter dilution is the practice of reducing the effectiveness of racial and ethnic minority voting power through both voting practices and the drawing of federal congressional and state legislative district lines in the redistricting process. Voter dilution diminishes the ability of communities of color to elect candidates of their choice, reducing their agency to elect leaders that represent their collective interests. Taken together these actions distort political representation and disrupt the functioning of our democratic system.
Following the 2020 presidential election there have been concerted efforts to undermine a person’s right to vote. In the past year alone, hundreds of bills have been introduced under the guise of ensuring election integrity, even though most election security experts have concluded the 2020 election “was the most secure in American history” and that “there was no evidence” any voting systems had been compromised. Voting protections are crucial because they serve as safeguards to ensure that all eligible voters can participate in our democratic system. Without laws to protect the right to vote we leave communities of color vulnerable to unscrupulous actors who seek to silence the political voice of the marginalized.
Without laws to protect the right to vote we leave communities of color vulnerable to unscrupulous actors who seek to silence the political voice of the marginalized.
Through my work, I engage Latinx communities across New York and Florida, facilitating access by shining a light on complex voting and redistricting systems, policies, practices, and working to eliminate other barriers that prevent people in Latinx communities from voting.
In my first Fellowship year, I hope to expand access to knowledge within the Latinx community regarding redistricting and voting rights in both New York and Florida while building and enhancing current coalitions and networks. Through collective engagement, planning, and collaboration we can build upon existing advocacy efforts and promote renewed and continuing investment in Latinx political representation and community engagement. I’m confident that this work will make a huge difference in the fight for our democracy.
To learn more about Cesar’s Fellowship project and his work safeguarding the right to vote in Latinx communities, visit his Fellow profile.