Organizers with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas hosted a virtual forum aimed to educate individuals on voter protection.

On Thursday, the organizations wrote in a news release, “With only a few weeks before the start of early voting, LUPE and ACLU of Texas are working to provide critical information to voters as they prepare to head to the polls or vote by mail.” 

Moderated by Daniel Diaz, Friday’s forum consisted of a presentation given in Spanish by Edgar Saldivar and David Donatti, lawyers with the ACLU based out of Houston. LUPE’s Community Organizing Coordinator Martha Sanchez was also at the forum and discussed the process to obtain a mail-in ballot, using her sealed ballot as an example. 

“Texas is one of the few states where minorities are the majority,” Donatti said in Spanish. “Latinos make up 30% of the population of eligible voters, but we have a lower voter turnout rate.”

In 2018, Donatti noted, only 28% of Latinos voted.

“And I don’t say that to shame us,” he continued. “Because that’s intentional.”

Donatti said the reason for the forum was to further explain the voting process in an effort to overcome the hurdles intentionally placed to suppress votes.  

Saldivar, who explained the voting process itself in depth, noted the most important resource was Let Texans Vote due to its accessibility. As Saldivar noted, the website has all the information regarding the election such as important dates, the voting process, voting safety and voting rights, in one place and in Spanish.  

Another resource the forum provided was vote411.org, which informs individuals of what will be on their ballot. 

Organizers with La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE) and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas hosted a virtual forum aimed to educate individuals on voter protection Friday. Top row (from left to right) Daniel Diaz and David Donatti. Bottom row (from left to right) Edgar Saldivar and Martha Sanchez. (Screengrab)

Citing Gov. Greg Abbott’s proclamation Thursday, in which Texas counties are limited to one drop-off location for mail-in ballots, Saldivar discussed the mail-in process becoming more complicated than needed as it significantly affects large counties, using Harris’ as an example. 

It’s worth noting that the population in Hidalgo County, according to the census information from 2019, is 868,707. The drop off location for Hidalgo County is in Edinburg at the Hidalgo County Elections Department at 101 S. 10th Ave.

Additionally, Saldivar explained if individuals receive mail claiming they are not registered or do not qualify because they aren’t citizens, but they actually are, to report it directly to the ACLU or to LUPE  who will reach out to ACLU. Individuals can also report it to the ACLU’s election protection hotline at (866) OUR-VOTE.

“The organizations and governments that want to limit the access of voting can utilize different ways to suppress votes,” Saldivar said in Spanish. “That’s why we must be vigilant of those actions and observing our government.” 

Adding to this, Sanchez spoke of another ACLU colleague who was reaching out to citizens who received mail claiming their name did not match their identification, so their registration to vote was rejected. She said, if this happened to anyone, to contact LUPE’s office. 

“This is one of the most important elections in our lives,” Sanchez said in Spanish. “Let’s go out and vote and we know this year the Valley is going to turnout to vote.” 

She knows this because Sanchez added they’ve been receiving high volume of calls from individuals who need help. 

“Three weeks is what we have to vote,” Sanchez said in Spanish. 

In an effort for voter outreach, Sanchez discussed they are organizing caravans and groups to vote together, especially for first time voters who are nervous, “Pa que no se sienten solos” — so they don’t feel alone, she said. 

The full forum can be watched at LUPE’s Facebook page

The last day to register to vote is Monday. Early voting begins Oct. 13 and runs through Oct. 30. The deadline for counties to receive vote-by-mail applications is Oct. 23.

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 3.