Dear supporters of CVI’s Civic Engagement program,
I have a bittersweet announcement: this will be my last update for CVI, as I will be starting a new adventure at the end of this month. Make no mistake, I will still be working to build the infrastructure necessary to defend Idaho’s democracy and include the voices of those who have been historically left out.
Additionally, Conservation Voters for Idaho has shown a history of successfully identifying incredibly talented people to take on the mission to protect Idaho’s quality of life by advocating for sound environmental policies and holding our elected officials accountable for their votes on conservation issues. I have no doubt that there are people out there, perhaps reading this newsletter, who will take up this mantle and continue to fight for a better Idaho.
Reflecting on the work of the Civic Engagement Program
These last four years at CVI have been truly remarkable. I joined the team in July of 2018 as the Voting Rights Associate to lead the voting rights program. I hit the ground running, working with our Program Director (now Executive Director) Rialin Flores to set an organizational goal in reducing barriers to the ballot box and increasing voter turnout for Idaho’s Latinx communities by 5%. We launched a bilingual GOTV program, which right away led to the discovery that bilingual poll workers in Canyon County were being told not to speak Spanish at the polls. I was able to work with our partners to get this unofficial policy reversed. That year, we not only met our goal of increasing voter turnout by 5%, but increased voter turnout in Canyon County by 17% compared to the 2014 midterm.
In 2019, I set my sights on Idaho’s municipal elections. Historically Idaho’s voter turnout for these elections is extremely low. For example in 2015, only 14.97% of registered voters cast their ballot in Caldwell’s municipal election and only 17.58% in Nampa. Our efforts to drive turnout included hosting community workshops to raise awareness and register voters, particularly those who have been historically left out. Thanks to the work we accomplished together, southwest Idaho saw an enormous uptick in voter turnout for all municipal elections. I believe this further proves that when we include more voices at the table, we see our democracy succeed – no matter how small the elections may seem.
In 2020, we faced enormous uncertainty with a looming pandemic and the decennial Census about to take place. The importance of the Census cannot be overstated, as it provides the foundation for our democracy where one person equals one vote. CVI gave me the opportunity to closely work with our partners to create Contamos (“We Count”) Idaho to take on the work ahead.
Due to our efforts and partnership, Idaho surpassed our 2010 Census Count Self Response rate and beat the national average. Three Idaho counties placed in the top 200 counties nationwide in self-response rates. Idaho had a self-response rate of 69.3%, the 19th highest self-response rate for any state despite our state not setting aside any dedicated funds for census outreach.
In 2021, Idaho began the work in drawing new district lines that would determine the literal boundaries of who could run and vote in a given district for the next 10 years. Our coalition, Contamos Idaho, shifted our civic engagement focus to help demystify the redistricting process and include more voices in the public comment period. We worked with our partners, including PODER of Idaho, to bring Spanish-speaking communities into the fold, which resulted in the submission of a redistricting map created with community input and several successful changes to the proposed map that kept key communities from being split apart.
In 2022, I worked with my colleague Hollie Conde, CVI’s Land and Legislative Coordinator, and all the partnerships created over the course of the Civic Engagement program to successfully defend Idaho’s democracy from major legislative attacks during the session. The proposed changes would have immediately decimated our right to the ballot box, leaving us with fewer tools to tackle the issues affecting our communities. We also worked with our partners to enhance the benefits provided by the Contamos Idaho website, including the addition of voter education and voter resources in both Spanish and English ahead of the 2022 primary election.
I cannot stress enough how important our partnerships and the CVI team have been for the success of this program. It continues to be an honor of a lifetime to work with so many talented people to make Idaho a better place to live. Please stay engaged with all the wonderful work being done with the folks at CVI, and consider this an invitation to get more involved. I hope to see each of you step into more leadership roles in our communities and to use the power of your vote every election cycle. Until we meet again…cheers!
CVI Civic Engagement Coordinator