Why VOTE on November 4?
Over the last 25 years, the Latino/a population in Nebraska has greatly increased. Whereas Latino/as made up 2.3% of the state’s population in 1990, by 2010, Latinos/as now made up 9.2% (167,405) of Nebraska’s total population. It can be assumed that the population has increased since then, as we all know someone who has a had a baby or who recently moved here from another state or country, although the baby scenario is much more likely as the rate at which new immigrants arrive to the state has slowed down since 2000. The largest number of Latinos/as lives in Omaha, with a reported 53,553 living in the city in 2010; yet, they only make up 13.1% of the total city’s population.
On the other hand, however, communities across the state are drastically changing their demographic make-up. In Schuyler, Latinos/as made up 65.4% of the town’s population in 2010. This number does not surprise for Abbie Kretz, who grew up in Schuyler and began to see a large influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants to the town in the middle to late 1990s and has continued to change throughout the 2000s. These demographic changes are true as well in Lexington, where Latinos/as made up 60.4% of the town’s population in 2010 and in South Sioux City with Latinos/as accounting for 45.3% of the town’s population.
While these numbers are impressive and encouraging, they mean NOTHING if Latinos/as do not vote during election cycles and are not engaged in public life. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, there were 63,000 eligible Latino/a voters in Nebraska for the 2012 Presidential Elections. While this number of eligible voters could potentially swing or even decide an election in Nebraska, the reality is very few Latinos/as actually vote! During the 2014 Primaries, only 14.32% of registered voters (about 3,400) in South Omaha’s Ward 4 actually turned out to vote.
So, yes, these numbers are not great, perhaps even bad, but why does voting matter? Why should you care about the upcoming elections?
Sergio Sosa, Executive Director of the Heartland Workers Center (HWC) commented, “Like many across the country, Nebraskans want a better life for their families and communities.”
- Affordable and high-quality childcare
- Quality education for their school age children and access to higher education opportunities
- Good paying and safe jobs that lead to long-term employment and economic success
- Access to quality, affordable healthcare for all individuals at all stages in their lives
Yet achieving these goals is not always possible for ALL NEBRASKANS and their families. Instead many Nebraskans continue to confront a myriad of problems. Did you know that:
- Approximately 32,000 workers in Nebraska earn $7.25 per hour? In Nebraska, 70% of minimum wage earners are women, and nationally, the average minimum wage earner is at least 35 years old, more than half work full-time, and over a quarter of minimum wage earners have families. If you earn $7.25 an hour and working full-time, you’ll only take home $15,080 a year – a yearly salary that makes it difficult to support a family.
- Approximately 27,000 Latinos/as who are currently uninsured could potentially qualify for Medicaid if Nebraska were to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Health Care Act (AC)? However, the Nebraska government decided not to expand Medicaid, leaving many Nebraskans in limbo, as they do not qualify for Medicaid and earn to little to receive a federal subsidy to purchase private insurance.
- Nebraska is the only state that does not give driver’s licenses to recipients of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) even though they have been provided a Social Security Number and work permit by the federal government? Since Governor Dave Heineman made this executive decision in 2012, lawsuits have been filed against the state of Nebraska, but nothing has changed. In the meantime, DACA recipients continue to drive even without a license, as they must be able to get back and forth from work and school.
- Some schools across the Omaha Public Schools District need to be brought up to current standards in terms fire and life safety, technology, and security, while others need to be renovated to address the current needs of the district? In addition, did you that many schools are overcrowded in high growth areas because the school district has not been able to keep up with the increasing number of students?
- Undocumented immigrants in the U.S. remain in limbo, as President Obama and Congress cannot come to a consensus on how to fix our broken immigration system and in a way that would keep families together? Before President Obama took office in 2009, he had made the campaign promise to pass immigration reform, which in turn, moved many Latinos/as to vote for him. However, six years later, we continue to wait for our immigration policies to improve. Thousands of student have benefited from Obama’s executive decision to provide the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, yet this is only a temporary solution. Yet President Obama cannot alone take blame. Congress too has proven incapable to take action to improve our immigration policies. In June 2013, the Senate passed a bill that would’ve provided increased security at the southern border and a 13-year-long path toward citizenship. Yet, this bill died, as the House refused to vote on this bill or any other bill introduced by its members. In the summer of 2014, President Obama promised to take executive action on immigration, expanding the deferred action program for nearly five million immigrants, only to later announce in September that he would wait until after the elections to act on immigration.
And I could go on and on because we face and will continue to face a variety of problems, but we cannot let these problems discourage us from voting; it’s because we don’t vote that we have these problems. We MUST use this resentment we feel toward this inaction by others to drive us to the polls on Election Day.
This November 4, we will have the opportunity to make our voices heard, as Nebraskans, just like millions across the country will exercise our right and responsibility to vote. We Nebraskans will select our next U.S. Senator and Representatives, along with Nebraska’s governor and other state and local officials.
We will play a role in our communities’ success by voting for elected officials who support our communities and on issues that could benefit us all. The same is true when you DO NOT vote because you let others decide what is best for you, your family, and your community.
What can you do?
Turn out and VOTE for the November 4 Elections. On this day, you will have the opportunity to:
- Raise the Minimum Wage! Vote For 425: In doing so, the minimum wage rate in Nebraska will go to $8.00 per hour starting January 2015 and to $9.00 per hour by January 2016.
- Vote YES for the OPS Bond Issue: If the bond issue passes, the money will be used to make improvements to schools across the city and begin the process to build new schools across Omaha.
- Vote for Candidates that will Support issues that are important to you and your family: Those who are elected on November 4 will play a vital role in the decisions made over at least the next two years. They will make decisions regarding healthcare and education to immigration and the economy. It is not enough that we elect a President who is aware of issues affecting our communities, but we must also elect officials who are willing to listen to this community, take our concerns to heart, and take action on these issues because they know we are a vital force concerning whether or not they are re-elected. The HWC has produced its bilingual Candidate Profile, which contains information about the candidates who are running for the major offices across the state.
- Get the Community OUT TO VOTE: From now until November 3, the HWC will be visiting voters at home in South Omaha and calling Latino/a voters across Douglas County to ensure they vote for the November 4th Election. Join the civic participation fiesta and VOLUNTEER with us by calling 402.933.6095 to sign-up.
- Be involved with community organizations: It is one thing to vote for candidates on November 4, but we as community members must continue to engage with them throughout their term(s) in office. This includes writing letters and making phone calls, as well as building public relationships and meeting with them to discuss important issues.
Vote for YOUR Family this November 4 and begin to build a better community for all TODAY!