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A Conversation with Julián Castro: Latinx Voters, Voter Participation, and Voting Rights

BY: DEZIMEY KUM

Former Democratic Presidential candidate and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Julián Castro, discussed the importance of voter participation for the upcoming 2020 election and advocacy with students and faculty via Zoom Webinar on Sept. 10.

The virtual discussion was hosted by the Kennedy Political Union, The Sine Institute, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and Latinx and American Student Organization, and moderated by School of Public Affairs Dean Vicky Wilkins. 

Secretary Castro voiced his support for the Biden administration, calling on unity around Biden and defeating President Donald Trump, as he endorsed Joe Biden in early June. The former Presidential candidate touched upon prioritizing the Latinx vote to lowering the voting age to 17. Castro emphasized the importance of what youth civic participation should look like in elections and what measures our citizens can take to get there.

"I believe that 17-year-olds, and perhaps even 16 year-olds, have the judgment and the ability to make an informed decision when it comes to candidates, and to effectively participate in our democracy," Castro said. A message Castro made that resonated with the many attendees getting ready to cast their first vote for the upcoming election: "We can leverage the high school community as a place where people are able to learn civics and government, and we should invest more in that." 

Throughout his campaign, Castro has unapologetically centered conversations about decriminalizing immigration, police reform, climate justice, and voting rights. Even though his campaign faltered in the polls, he has continuously pledged to a diverse nation with equal rights.

In the recent Democratic National Convention (DNC), many Latinx activists and politicians criticized the DNC due to the lack of Latinx representation. Only three Latino speakers spoke at the convention: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

Before the Castro discussion, The Blackprint had the chance to speak with the former Presidential candidate on the lack of diversity among speakers at the Democratic National Convention and the pitch to Latinx voters.

The BP: In the recent Democratic National Convention, prominent progressive Latinos were missing from the lineup. What message do you think that sends to Latino voters for the upcoming election?

Castro:  "When you compare the actions of Democrats in Congress and President Obama on so many issues that affect the Latino community, [and] when you compare that to Donald Trump and the Republicans, you know it's night and day. We have a President who has been the most antagonistic president with regard to the Latino community that we have seen in a very long time. He has fostered division and bigotry and has otherized the Latino community."

"My hope is that people will look at the track record; if they look at the track record of Joe Biden versus Donald Trump, Joe Biden will be a much better president, not only for Americans broadly but for the Latino community."

Latinos will be the largest nonwhite voting bloc in the 2020 election for the first time in history. Now, some — like Castro — are sounding the alarm on the strategies the Democratic Party should take in bringing out these voters as well as investing more in the Latino community.

Secretary Castro ended the discussion by stressing the importance of making a plan to vote, recognizing voter registration, and absentee deadlines in each individual state. The event's conclusion left attendees with action items to make sure their voices are heard.


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