In Latinx culture, quinceañeras are a time to celebrate a 15-year-old's transition from girl to woman. It's a full-fledged affair that brings together family and friends from all over, and comes complete with a princess-like gown, an elaborate multi-tiered cake, an entourage of boy and girl attendants, a much-anticipated waltz between father and daughter, and soon in Texas, voter registration.
Poder Quince/Quince Power is Jolt Initiative's innovative solution to increase Latinx votership in a state where the demographic will soon represent the majority, but those casting votes in political elections don't reflect that. The campaign aims to do this by transforming 15 quinceañeras per week into Poder Quince/Quince Power celebrations. The effort will launch in Austin, Dallas, and Houston, where the birthday girl will encourage attendees to register to vote through the Poder Quince team, who will be onsite. Participating quinceañeras will receive a free photo booth at their event, a free Snapchat filter geotagged to their venue, and — for one lucky winner — a celebrity guest appearance.
This latest campaign aims to change the political mindset of young Latinas so that they prioritize voting and civic involvement once they are of age. In doing so, they encourage their families and friends to vote also, thereby increasing Latinx votership in local, state, and national elections. "We've seen time and time again that a lot of people will register to vote in municipal elections, but when it actually comes time to head to the polls, there aren't a lot of voters," said Jolt Initiative's cultural and events manager Maria Yolisma Garcia. "They may not feel very encouraged or empowered to go out and vote. Politicians aren't earning their trust so we want to start planting that seed of civic participation at a very early age."
The Texas-based Latinx civic organization advocacy group has built a reputation for its groundbreaking efforts to increase political participation, including having young women dress in quinceañera dresses to protest anti-immigration Senate Bill 4 at the Texas Capitol back in 2017, which would allow police officers to question the immigration status of anyone detained with "reasonable suspicion" of breaking any law — a bill signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott, but not without public opposition from young Latinx women from all over Texas, who argued the legislation would adversely impact them personally.
According to a study named We are Texas conducted by Jolt in 2018, Latinas between the ages 18 to 24 are 25 percent more likely to vote than male counterparts, and five percent more likely to vote than non-Latinas within the same age range.
"The potential of Poder Quince is truly limitless. At Jolt Initiative we believe in the power of young Latinos to transform Texas, and in the ability of ordinary people to solve our nation's greatest problems," said Jolt Founder and Executive Director Cristina Tzintzun-Ramirez. "Young Latinas will be the authors of the next chapter in Texas history and Poder Quince is putting the pen in their hands, and preparing them to write it."
In Texas, 95 percent of Latinx under the age of 18 are US citizens and will soon reach voting age. Over the next decade, nearly two million Latinx will turn 18 in the state. Even though Latinx make up half of Texans under 18 years old, trends from prior elections show that young people and Latinx are still the least likely to vote. Jolt Initiative's team believes that instigating a cultural shift and behavioral changes rooted in and owned by the Latinx community will increase political participation.
Garcia, Jolt Initiative's cultural and events manager, said the campaign hopes to meet its ambitious goal of registering 5,000 voters within the first eight months of its launch, and to register voters at 1,000 quinceañeras over the next two years ahead of the 2020 presidential election. She said Jolt's team will encourage young women to make a toast that celebrates their rite of passage in line with Latinx tradition, but also encourages their guests to take accountability for their own civic engagement.
The campaign will track each quinceañera's progress long after the festivities are over. Jolt's team plans to follow up with the young women to ensure they understand the importance of voting and what the political process entails, including how and why it's important to call their elected officials about issues they care about, and how to work with their communities to ensure people understand why their vote matters and could help determine the country's future.
"We can only do so much door-to-door knocking and things like that, so we truly believe in going into a space where Quinceañeras are not only celebrating who they are, their identity, heritage, and tradition, but encouraging civic engagement," Garcia said. "It's a moment to celebrate the birthday girl, but also a reminder that all these beautiful people and their energy can transform into political engagement."
Registration for the Poder Quince movement opened May 6 exclusively on poderquince.com.