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'Faithful Citizenship' Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Outreach in Houston Parishes

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Arenas de Ruiz, formerly of Venezuela, had been among parishioners in Harris County, Fort Bend and Brazoria counties who took the three-day leadership training offered by The Metropolitan Organization (TMO), a nonprofit grassroots group. In mid-summer, more than 1,250 TMO leaders from 30 churches and other institutions convened on Zoom and Facebook watch parties for a virtual “Get out the Vote Rally” and made thousands of phone calls to 16 Harris County precincts that traditionally had low voter turnout.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has offered a teaching document on the political responsibilities of Catholics called “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship.” The document urges all pastors, lay and religious faithful and all people of good will “to help form consciences, teach those entrusted to their care; to contribute to civil and respectful public dialogue and to shape politics.”

Father Rodney Armstrong of Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in Fifth Ward and his parishioners set up a voter registration table at a nearby McDonald’s fast-food restaurant with owner approval. The pastor also made a video that TMO placed on its Facebook to encourage voters.

Dr. Fernando Scaglia, a parishioner at Assumption Catholic Church off Airline Drive, said he participated in the church’s phone bank as well despite his busy schedule as a researcher and professor of genetics at Baylor College of Medicine.

He also participated in “Virtual Accountability Sessions,” where TMO invited candidates from Democratic and Republican parties to discuss how they stood on a variety of issues.

“There are so many important issues that impact all of us — health and the pandemic; economic issues like evictions and even the DACA issue for dreamers,” Dr. Scaglia said.

[Photo Credit: St. Leo the Great Catholic Church]

Faithful Citizenship Sparks Nonpartisan Voter Rallies at Houston Parishes, The Texas Catholic Herald [pdf]


CTI Boosts Low Propensity Voter Turnout in Suburban Williamson County

"Talarico also might have gotten a boost from efforts from Central Texas Interfaith, a network of churches, synagogues and other religious organizations that held its own non-partisan get-out-the-vote campaign.

The group targeted voting precincts with historically low voter turnout and church presence with a phone campaign aimed at individuals the organization identified as low propensity voters. By the end of early voting, they saw marked increases in 16 of the 17 precincts they targeted across the Austin area. Those included Williamson County precincts in Talarico’s district as well as State Rep. John Bucy III’s district. Bucy, D-Austin, also won re-election Tuesday.

Rev. Miles R. Brandon II, of St. Julian of Norwich Episcopal Church in Round Rock, said many of the people they contacted found it refreshing that they were being asked only to vote and weren’t being sold a particular candidate or political party. “We don’t talk to people about candidates, but we talk to them about issues,” Brandon said. “I think, we don’t get hung up as much because we don’t represent a party or candidate.”

Of the nearly 18,000 people contacted, about 9,500 of them ended up casting a vote by the end of early voting, according to Central Texas Interfaith. Several candidates on the ballot who worked with the network of congregations, including Talarico, Bucy and State Rep. Vikki Goodwin, won their respective races." 

Suburban Swing:Once Reliably Red, Williamson Voters Back Biden, Cornyn, American-Statesman [pdf]

 


COPS/Metro's GOTV Effort Passes Groundbreaking "SA Ready to Work"

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A trio of sales tax measures to train San Antonio workers for new jobs, expand public transit and renew the city’s early childhood education program were passing by an overwhelming margin with a majority of the vote counted Tuesday night.

The workforce and VIA ballot measures had little organized opposition while the forces in favor had the backing of business leaders, heads of chambers of commerce and grassroots organization COPS/Metro. The two campaigns, plus the third to renew Pre-K 4 SA, spent more than $1.7 million to convince voters to pass all three measures.

The workforce proposal was COPS/Metro’s baby. The organization — which founded the workforce development program Project Quest more than 25 years ago — pushed City Council earlier this year to pump $75 million into workforce development as part of a $191 stimulus package and later put their weight behind the ballot measure.

On Wednesday night, COPS/Metro leaders felt vindicated — though they recognized the win likely wouldn’t have happened without the suffering and heavy toll wrought by the pandemic.

...

Sister Jane Ann Slater and Cathy McCoy, organizers with COPS/Metro Alliance, attended the small SA Ready to Work election night watch party at Augie’s Barbed Wire Smokehouse with Nirenberg. They saw the voters’ support as validation of the work done by Project Quest, a workforce development program founded by COPS/Metro that will serve as the model for the larger program.

To gain support for the ballot measure, the grassroots organization made a concerted effort to reach voters who may not have normally voted on local propositions – or at all, McCoy said.

“It was an educational process, I think,” Slater said. “We reached voters” by phone and in person.

[Photo Credit: Tom Reel/San Antonio Express-News]

San Antonio Voters Approve Ballot Measures for Workforce Development, Transit & Pre-K, San Antonio Express-News [pdf]

San Antonio Voters Give Thumbs-up to Workforce, Pre-K, and Transportation Ballot Measures, San Antonio Report [pdf]

Huge Support for Ready-to-Work Plan Will Put 40,000 Unemployed San Antonians in JobsNews4SA [pdf

 


DAI Targets Latino Voters in North Texas Districts

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The San Juan Diego Catholic Parish in northwest Dallas was a flurry of activity Saturday afternoon.

The nonpartisan political nonprofit is one of several groups in Dallas and across the state working to get Latinos to the polls. The goal is to boost candidates who are more likely to support progressive policies that would expand health care and police reform as well as establish drivers licenses for immigrants without documentation.

The group has targeted six statehouse races in North Texas where they hope to energize voters to pick candidates who support their agenda.

Margarito Garcia Jr., 32, is one of those volunteers making phone calls, despite the fact he cannot vote in this election. He lives in the U.S. under the DACA program, which was put in place by President Barack Obama to give young immigrants brought here as children the ability to remain in the country.

“A citizen isn’t someone who is born here, but someone who cares about the community they live in,” he said about his work in the political process.

When Latino voters come out, he said, it reminds candidates that they are part of this country.

“Latinos have a voice,” he said. “Politicians need to know that when they make decisions, we are important and that we exist.”

[Photo Credit: Jason Janik/Staff Contributor]

Latino Voters Could Make a Difference in National and North Texas Races, Dallas Morning News [pdf]


Together Louisiana's GOTV Effort Defeats New Corporate Tax Break

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On Tuesday, voters rejected the idea in a landslide. All 64 parishes, including GOP and Democratic strongholds, voted against it. Almost as many Louisiana voters rejected the proposed Constitutional Amendment 5, as it was known, 1.22 million, as voted for President Donald Trump, 1.25 million.

“You’re talking about liberal, conservative, Black, White, Democrat, Republican, Independent, it failed by a landslide,” said Edgar Cage, an organizer with Together Louisiana, which rallied against the amendment. “This should be a clear message to the Legislature that the taxpayers, the people of Louisiana are tired of these corporate tax exemptions and giveaways.”

On Tuesday morning, Khalid Hudson, a Together Louisiana organizer, hopped in a white Chevy Silverado at City Park in Baton Rouge as a volunteer riding shotgun used a PA system to get several dozen supporters lined up behind them. A caravan took shape, as a line of cars and bicycles adorned with signs that said “No on 5” and “Stop corporate welfare” followed Hudson on a route that took them past a host of precincts in predominantly Black areas of Baton Rouge that saw low turnout in the early voting period. A crop of volunteers followed on foot for the journey across Old South and north Baton Rouge.

With the presidential election sucking up most of the oxygen, Hudson said Together Louisiana wanted to get out their message on Amendment 5, which was placed far down the lengthy ballot and asked voters, “Do you support an amendment to authorize local governments to enter into cooperative endeavor ad valorem tax exemption agreements with new or expanding manufacturing establishments for payments in lieu of taxes?”

...

Edgar Cage, a leader of Together Louisiana, a statewide network of congregations and civic organizations, and an opponent of the Amendment, called it “corporate welfare” and another tax loophole that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share.

Sixty-three percent of Louisiana voters, or a total of 1,221,197, voted against the amendment.

Louisiana voters reject New Tax Break in a Landslide, After Opponents Put on Full-Court press, The Advocate [pdf]

Amendment 5 Opponents Say Louisiana Lawmakers Should Take the Amendment’s Defeat to Heart, Louisiana Illuminator [pdf]


COPS/Metro Makes Case for Proposition B

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Proponents of a local ballot measure that would set up a pandemic-relief job retraining program are making a last-minute push to ensure it's not lost as voters go to the polls for the high-stakes presidential election. 

Proposition B, dubbed SA Ready To Work, calls for redirecting $154 million in sales tax revenue from aquifer protection and into retraining 40,000 workers who lost their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Proponents argue the program, which includes stipends and daycare, would allow the Alamo City to remake what's long been a low-wage, tourism-driven economy.  

"These were people who, before the pandemic, were working jobs that weren't very high paying and often didn't have benefits," said San Antonio Councilwoman Adrianna Rocha Garcia. "Very often, they were working multiple jobs to make ends meet." 

Proponents Make Last Minute Case for Proposition B, San Antonio's Job Training MeasureSan Antonio Current [pdf]


TMO Works to Reach Election Day Voters After Early Voting Push

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Regardless of the outcome, it’s clear the election has brought out many new voters. According to the Metropolitan Organization, a coalition of faith-based nonprofits in the Houston area, “low propensity voters” — which the group defines as voters who are newly registered, infrequent, young, or from communities of color — are casting ballots at rates on par with or exceeding those seen in the 2016 election in nearly all of the precincts that the group is monitoring.

Metropolitan Organization leaders credit that in part to a recent ramping up of ongoing get-out-the-vote efforts, including having church leaders focus more on civic engagement within their congregations ahead of the election.

Joe [H]iggs, an organizer with the group, said it and other nonpartisan groups have spent months doing what one leader called “disciplined” outreach to typically disenfranchised groups. Some, he said, “didn’t even know early voting was going on.”

[Photo Credit: Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle]

Campaigns Try To Reach Election Day Voters After Record Early Voting, Houston Chronicle [pdf]

 


Bastrop Interfaith Launches Effort to Increase Voter Participation in Bastrop County

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Increasing participation in the political process is at the heart of Bastrop Interfaith’s mission as Election Day approaches.

A nonpartisan, multi-issue organization, Bastrop Interfaith is part of a larger organization called Central Texas Interfaith, which works to address public issues that affect members of different communities.

Made up of community institutions like churches, neighborhood associations and public school groups, Bastrop Interfaith pulls together community members to address common issues.

A large part of this effort, according to Edie Clark, a Bastrop County resident and leader with Bastrop Interfaith, is developing leaders within local communities so people have the skills and opportunities to engage with public officials about salient topics.

This year, that means informing as many county residents as possible about the issues at hand for the election, and where different local and state candidates stand on them.

[County Map Courtesy of Bastrop County]

Bastrop County Nonprofit Works to Increase Voter Participation in Low Turnout AreaAustin American Statesman [pdf]


San Antonio Sister Urges Voters to Vote Their Conscience

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As political groups across the country make their last appeals to Christian voters, often pointing to a narrow set of issues, Sister Jane Ann Slater, chancellor of the Catholic Archdiocese of San Antonio, wants the people of faith to think more broadly...

“You look at the breadth of issues under the umbrella of common good and quality of life,” she said.

The workforce development initiative, known as “Proposition B,” is as much about helping those hit hardest by COVID-19...

For years Slater has been working with C.O.P.S./Metro, an alliance of community organizations that started with coalitions of local churches and grew over time to include labor unions and other activists to organize on immigration and living wage campaigns...winning victories throughout the 1990s and instituting programs that continue to bear fruit today, including Project QUEST, the program on which Proposition B is modeled.

When the pandemic hit, the Archdiocese of San Antonio quickly worked with C.O.P.S./Metro to ensure the city directed millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds toward housing security, but Slater said charity isn’t enough for the long term. That’s where Proposition B comes in.

C.O.P.S./Metro worked with the local community college district and employers to assure that the kind of training the new program provides will make participants eligible for jobs that already exist with room for salary growth.

They’ve also been trying to get word out to voters that the program Proposition B aims to replace, a popular aquifer protection program, will be funded by another revenue stream. Protecting environmental resources, especially clean water, is not a trade off C.O.P.S./Metro is asking people to make.

“You don’t listen to your bishop. You don’t listen to the pope. You don’t listen to the church as an institution,” Slater said, “You vote your conscience and no one can tell you you were wrong … well, they can, but you don’t have to listen.”

[Photo Credit: Our Lady of the Lake University]

Listen to Your Conscience, Not the Bishop or Pope, Texas Nun Urges Voters, SoJourners [pdf]

 


TMO Calls Attention to the Disproportionate Impact of the Pandemic on Latino Families

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The novel coronavirus is devastating Latino communities across the country, from California’s Imperial Valley to suburban Boston and Puerto Rico. Workers at Midwestern meatpacking plants and on construction sites in Florida are getting sick and dying of a virus that is exacerbating historic inequalities in communities where residents, many of whom are “essential” workers, struggle to access health care. The undocumented are largely invisible.

Latinos, who are not a racial group and come from diverse backgrounds, make up an increasing portion of deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. More than 36,500 Latinos have died of the virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed by The Washington Post.

“If you look at all the negative factors, risky jobs or unemployment, unsafe housing, poor air quality and preexisting conditions, it’s all people of color,” said Carlos E. Rodriguez-Diaz, an associate professor at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.

Angela Orea, a community organizer with The Metropolitan Organization of Houston, said each day she receives desperate calls from families trying to get tested or find care. Many struggle to find transportation. Some who aren’t sick are moving out of their homes or apartments because they lost jobs and can no longer afford rent.

Every day, Amelia Averyt sees coronavirus patients at Legacy Community Health Clinic in Houston who waited too long to seek help after home remedies failed. The results can be particularly tragic for the undocumented, she said. When a family gets sick, she said, members vow to defeat the disease and take care of each other with minimal medical intervention. The repercussions can be devastating.

[Photo Credit: Sergio Flores/Washington Post]

‘It’s Just Too Much to Handle,’ In Texas, the Burden of Coronavirus on Latinos is Diverse, With an Impact That is Almost Certainly Underestimated, Washington Post [pdf]