SAN BENITO, Oct. 15 – The Equal Voice for America’s Families Network will hold major Get out the Vote rallies in McAllen and San Benito on Saturday.
The McAllen event takes place at the McAllen Convention Center starting at 9 a.m. The San Benito event takes place on the grounds of the Historical San Benito Museum District and runs from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
At the San Benito rally, the two candidates running for Cameron County Judge will participate in a candidate’s forum. Incumbent Carlos Cascos, a Republican, is being challenged by Democrat John Wood. The candidate’s forum starts at 11 a.m.
“This Get Out the Vote initiative is a non-partisan effort committed to remind and encourage all registered voters to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming November election,” said the START Center’s Joe Medrano.
The San Benito event is being hosted by South Texas Adult Resource & Training (START) in conjunction with the City of San Benito Market Days
“This rally will be fun and educational for everyone,” Medrano promised. “There will be bouncers for children and obstacle courses for the youth. Hourly door prizes, music and a classic car and motorcycle display will make it an interesting family day. We encourage the citizens of San Benito and Cameron County to attend as we begin a new ‘Get out the Vote’ tradition in San Benito.”
The Equal Voice network comprises ten non-profits that assist low-income families. It is non-partisan and does not endorse candidates or political parties. Its platform for 2010 was developed through house meetings in communities across the Rio Grande Valley and focuses on “comprehensive and humane immigration reform, health care access for all, jobs and economic stability, affordable housing and education.”
As in the 2008 elections, Equal Voice has joined with Mi Familia Vota to encourage voter participation. The group is targeting ten precincts across the Valley that have relatively high voter registration but a history of low voter turnout. The aim is to increase voter turnout by ten percent. If the group succeeds in its goal it will look for increased funding from national philanthropic foundations for an expanded GOTV operation across the Valley in future elections.
“Our network is committed to continue working on the long-term goal to advance social change by creating a culture of voter participation in the Rio Grande Valley,” said Armando ‘Mando’ Garza, of Proyecto Azteca, one of the ten non-profits in Equal Voice.
“We will provide voters in ten targeted communities with the tools they need to engage in the political process at the local, state, and national levels. This will be done by going door to door and talking to residents about the importance of voting and giving information about how and where to vote.”
The McAllen event is being hosted by La Unión del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), Project ARISE, and Proyecto Azteca. Garza said the forum for the rally in McAllen will be different than most others.
“This event will not be an opportunity for candidates to discuss their personal platforms; instead it will be an opportunity for candidates to become educated on the issues identified by these communities and to address specific questions regarding these topics,” Garza said.
LUPE Executive Director Juanita Valdez-Cox helped develop the format for the forum. “When elected officials are in office they make very important decisions that affect the community. What better way to be able to make an informed decision than to hear from the people who will directly feel the impact of those decisions,” Valdez-Cox said.
Ann Cass, executive director of Proyecto Azteca agreed.
“I think this format is great. We always hear from candidates what their platforms are and we many times never hear them talk about our issues. Now we have an opportunity to have them address those issues that impact our families in our neighborhoods,” Cass said.
Ramona Casas, community organizer for Project ARISE, said the Equal Voice network is committed to making civic participation a permanent feature of its work. She said that by creating a culture of voter participation in the Valley the group will see an increase in turnout in future elections, thus increasing the political clout of the region in Washington, D.C., and Austin.
“We are trying to make the community aware of the fact that voting is not only a responsibility but it is also the way to affect change in their colonia,” Casas said.
“Also, we are helping families understand the roles of the different political offices so that they will have better understanding of who to address with their issues. So when they go to vote they will have a better understanding of who they are voting for and why and that will lead to a commitment to vote and more importantly continue to vote.”
The general election takes place Nov. 2. Early voting starts Oct. 18.