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WUWM's Teran Powell reports on race and ethnicity in southeastern Wisconsin.

Black & Latino Voters: 2020 Election Is About Survival, Milwaukee Organizer Says

Teran Powell
Pastor Greg Lewis addresses the crowd at the candlelight rally.

Millions of people have already cast their ballots for this year’s presidential election, but get out the vote efforts are still very active, including those aimed at Black and Latino voters.

A variety of organizations have tried to appeal to these communities, stressing the importance of voting, and how to do so accurately and safely.

The push comes after a decline in both Black and Latino voter turnout in Wisconsin between the 2012 and 2016 presidential elections. But since 2016, the numbers of eligible Latino and Black voters in Wisconsin have grown. According to the Pew Research Center, 4.2% of Latino and 6% of Black voters are eligible to vote in Wisconsin this year.

>>Important Voting Deadlines In Wisconsin

For months in the Milwaukee area, different groups have been mobilizing Black and Latino voters.

Last week, the night before early voting began, VOCES de la Frontera and Souls to the Polls hosted an early voting candlelight rally to “light up” Milwaukee and engage voters.

Jacqulyn Kovarik, a spokesperson for VOCES, says there are a number of issues that matter to Latino voters. They include immigration rights and the COVID-19 pandemic.

"A lot of Latino immigrants, working class, like hard workers, have really been thrown under the bus during this pandemic," Kovarik says. "We've been supporting a lot of essential workers who were laid off because they were advocating and organizing for adequate COVID-19 protections in meatpacking plants so that’s just one example."

Kovarik argues that Republicans in office did not care about providing stimulus checks to undocumented immigrants. She says because the government has often failed Latino or Black people, many are less likely to vote.

But she says this election is about survival, and because there are more multiracial voters this election than ever before, they can make a difference on Election Day.

Pastor Greg Lewis has been sharing a similar message. He’s executive director of Souls to the Polls. Lewis says this election is life or death for Black voters. And he says voting on Tuesday is just the beginning.

"We want to begin to create a voting bloc so that we can control our local politics to take care of some of the needs of our community and have a hands-on at-the-table kind of appearance here," Lewis says.

Lewis says people need to vote to show their power. He says it’s important to keep driving that message home, so people believe their vote matters.

What Black and Latino voters have to say

I wanted to hear from some Black and Latino voters about the issues that are motivating them to go to the polls. Some responded, joking, saying “there are so many.”

But outside Mitchell Street Library on Milwaukee’s south side, two Black women, Katharine Greer and Flora Moton, told me what’s on their minds.

"Medical, making sure the kids are going to school and doing their things, you know. It matters because their schools is good, but they are not learning, you know, like they supposed to be learning," Greer says.

Moton is concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s just sad," she says. "I got to stay in the house, can't go nowhere, my grandkids can’t visit cause they live in Chicago. And my godchildren who live up here can’t come and visit me."

And two Latino voters, Christian Garcia and Noelia Gramajo, shared their concerns.

Garcia is a first-time voter.

"For me, immigration mostly. I feel like everybody should have an opportunity at least to give their case if you actually, really need help," Garcia says.

Immigration is also important to Gramajo.

"Most importantly, anything that has to do with immigration laws and hopefully improving our society little by little," Gramajo says. "All the racial injustices is also something really important to me and I feel like that that's how most young people feel right now. And it's more than an election to us, it's everything."

All the voters I chatted with told me that getting out to vote mattered to them, even in the middle of a pandemic — because voting is a right, and it does lead to change.

Support for Race & Ethnicity reporting is provided by the Dohmen Company Foundation.

Do you have a question about race in Milwaukee that you'd like WUWM's Teran Powell to explore? Submit it below.


Teran is WUWM's race & ethnicity reporter.
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