As Americans around the world tuned into the Every Vote Counts: A Celebration of Democracy broadcast special on Thursday, actors Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Wilmer Valderrama, and Salma Hayek Pinault came together with everyday Latinos to share a message on the importance of the Latinx vote.
The segment was part of the hour-long nonpartisan event that featured dozens of artists, musicians, performers, and community leaders — all uniting virtually to celebrate the joy of voting and encourage Americans to cast their ballots in the last few days before polls close on Nov. 3.
Latinos in the United States are expected to represent the nation’s largest racial or ethnic minority in a presidential election for the first time, with a record 32 million eligible citizens, according to the Pew Research Center. This year, Latinos will account for 13.3% of all eligible voters, a 1.4% increase from four years ago.
Hayek Pinault, who is Mexican and American, expressed her excitement about these record numbers.
“I voted because I believe in democracy,” she said. “I voted because I care for the future of our children. I voted because I am proud and I support my community.”
Although the numbers are impressive, they don’t guarantee that all Latinx voters will show up to the polls like Hayek Pinault did. In the 2016 presidential election, less than half (47.6%) of Latinx registered voters casted a ballot.
Maria Hinojosa, host of NPR’s Latino USA, pointed out the impact that 32 million Latinx voters could have on the election, and told viewers that “democracy is not a noun, it’s a verb.”
Lopez, who is Puerto Rican American, also used her screen time to encourage Latinx voters to exercise their power in numbers.
“I especially want the Latino community to understand their power, and to make their voices heard, to get loud,” she said.
Latinx voters have the potential to be a decisive voice in the 2020 election because of their large presence in key swing states such as Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada. And their presence in crucial states like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan could make a difference in a closely contested election.
“That is our superpower,” said Mario Enriquez. “Our power is to vote and make our voices heard.”
Throughout the Latinx Vote segment, Americans shared issues that matter to them and their pride in voting.
Valderrama, who is Venezuelan-Columbian-American, said immigration is one of the issues he cares most about, “because immigrants from around the world came to this land and brick-by-brick made it a country.”
For him, voting is not only an act of civic engagement, but also a token of appreciation to his parents, “who gave up everything to have us here in America.”
Jose Antonio Hernandez, co-founder of Mind Body Social, said that he is voting for leadership, while Hector Sanchez Flores, executive director of National Compadres Network, emphasized the importance of access to higher education.
According to a recent survey, the top issues for Latinx registered voters in the 2020 election are the economy, health care, the COVID-19 pandemic, and racial and ethnic discrimination.
For Longoria, who is Mexican American, the value of voting lies in its ability to affect the people she cares about.
“The minute I could vote, I was going to do it, to make sure that I voted for things that affected my family,” she said.
As pivotal as they are this year, Latinx voters will become even more important in the next few decades, as they are projected to make up nearly one-quarter of the American population by 2045.