The Role of Electoral Politics and Latino Mobilization: Studies in Granger and Toppenish Washington

Emma Fulkerson

Because Latinos in Granger and Toppenish make up the large majority of the population but vote at very low rates and are not proportionally represented in local government, I sought to examine the ways in which Latinos can be successfully mobilized to participate in their community and in local politics. My report focuses on the mobilization strategies used in Toppenish Barrios Unidos, a neighborhood organization with a focus on gang prevention, and Ramona Fonseca’s 2007 mayoral campaign in Granger.  My research question asked: How does the role of electoral politics in a Latino mobilizing effort affect the kinds of strategies for mobilization that are used?

Methods: I interviewed over 20 community members, local activists and candidates in my research jurisdiction in order to determine the successful strategies used in their mobilization efforts.  I compared my findings from these interviews with that of published articles on similar topics, like the strategies used in gang prevention organizations like Barrios Unidos, and the successful methods used in campaigns targeting the Latino electorate.
Findings: Electoral activism took place within a much broader context of community organizing in Toppenish Barrios Unidos, while electoral politics was the central and defining focus of activism in Ramona Fonseca’s mayoral campaign.  However, my research showed that both organizations used remarkably similar strategies that work to successfully mobilize Latinos to become more involved in their community and in the political process.  The groups both implemented family-oriented strategies, educational activities, coalitions with other organizations, personal contact through neighborhood canvassing, and opened channels for people to demand more responsiveness from local government through electoral activism.

Recommendations:  For groups seeking to enhance Latino participation and voter turnout, the incorporation of family-oriented strategies,  personal contact through neighborhood canvassing, and educational activities are among the most successful strategies.

  • Neighborhood groups can generate higher participation in their organization and in local politics through activities that are educational and involve the family.
  • Campaigns can produce a significantly larger Latino turnout through face-to-face contact with voters, and by educating Latinos about the importance of their vote and the steps involved in properly filling out and mailing their ballot.
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