Michigan Latino students hosting panel to get out the vote

Kim Kozlowski
The Detroit News

Organizations representing Latinx college students in Michigan will host a virtual panel at 7 p.m. Thursday to encourage fellow students to vote.

The panel discussion, "Tu Voto, Tu Voz (Your Vote, Your Voice): The Importance of the Latinx Vote," will include Michigan state Reps. Vanessa Guerra, D-Bridgeport Township, and Alex Garza, D-Taylor, along with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, D-Illinois, and University of Michigan alumnus Diego Bernal, a Texas state representative.

The young Latino vote is important because they are the fastest-growing and largest minority group and represent a significant share of eligible voters, said UM sophomore Xalma Palomino, 19.

"It's important that we show up to the polls and vote to demand change in the issues that affect our community the most," said Palomino, a sophomore from Detroit who is studying political science and Latino/a studies.

"UM students are politically engaged and motivated. However, often conversations about important topics lack inclusion of Latinx perspectives ... This event highlights the empowerment of Latinx students and shows that we understand the power of voting."

La Casa, a UM Latinx student organization, began "The Latinx Initiative," and has been sending weekly newsletters to its members. It also has active on social media to energize its members to vote so their voices can be heard and awaken the "sleeping giant" to issues such as immigration, policing by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Palomino said. 

It will be joined by other university organizations across the state, including Cultura de Las Razas Unidas (Michigan State University), Empowered LatinX Union (Central Michigan University), Latinos United for Advancement (University of Michigan-Flint), Latino Student Alliance (Western Michigan University), Latinx Student Association (Wayne State University) and Latino Student Organization (Hope College).

Students from those organizations will introduce the panelists. Moderating the discussion will be Mara Ostfeld, a UM assistant professor of political science.

"Young voters make up a much larger share of eligible Latino voters than they do among other ethno-racial groups, but they are also significantly less likely to vote than their older Latino counterparts," Ostfeld said. "These are Americans with strong, thoughtful opinions on some of the most important issues facing our country and it is important that their voices are reflected in all aspects of the American political process."

To participate in the webinar-style panel, register here.