New York, New York — On Tuesday, November 8, 2016, 200 million registered voters will have the opportunity to elect the next president of the United States as well as the next congressional and state representatives from their respective communities. The historic 2016 general elections will bring about the most diverse group of voters in United States history. Latinos, African Americans, and Asian-descended people comprise nearly one-third of all eligible voters, according to Pew Research Center. Dominicanos USA (DUSA), a nonprofit organization that advocates for the empowerment of the Latino and Hispanic community, is engaged in mobilizing voters to ensure they participate in these crucial 2016 general elections.
During these pivotal 2016 elections, it is pertinent that all eligible registered voters go out and vote. Since 2013, Dominicanos USA (DUSA) has mounted an aggressive get out the vote (GOTV) campaign to ensure that eligible New Yorkers become active voters. Thus far this year, the DUSA team has knocked on nearly 75,000 doors, made more than 100,000 phone calls, and has sent more than 104,000 mail notifications. To date, DUSA has registered over 140,000 new voters in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania.
Starting yesterday, Tuesday, November 1, and running through Election Day on Tuesday, November 8, Dominicanos USA is working vigorously to ensure that eligible voters go out and vote. We employ two strategies to ensure that eligible voters participate in these historic elections. Our phone banking team—working from DUSA headquarters—is tasked with calling eligible voters through our state-of-the-art phone system to ensure voters leave their homes and vote. The canvassing team will employ a more hands on approach by knocking on people’s doors to remind citizens to vote.
Like all registered voters, millennials—people born in the 1980s and beyond—have a vested interest in electing the next leaders within their local communities and at the national level, the next president of the United States. In the next few years millenials will replace current leaders and become society’s next movers and shakers. Millennials comprise nearly half (44%) of the 27.3 million Hispanic eligible voters. Compared to other groups, the Dominican population in the U.S. is among the youngest, but also among the most politically engaged.
“Dominican Americans are very passionate about politics and at the same time seek out the opportunity to voice their concerns and become brokers within their communities. Dominicanos USA provides the vehicle that allows for this exchange to occur,” said Eddie Cuesta, national director of Dominicanos USA (DUSA).
Dominicanos USA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and nonpartisan organization that empowers Dominican Americans in the United states through DUSA’s commitment to civic, social, and economic integration. Among DUSA’s goals are to register, educate, and mobilize communities of color to go out and vote.
Dominicanos USA is here to assist anyone in need of locating or getting to their appropriate polling site. Please call Lucy at 718-530-2258 or visit our website dominicanosusa.org for information on exercising your right to vote.
by Brigid Bergin
On a steamy Thursday in August, Alexandra Alma, 15, stood poised on the corner of 145th Street and Broadway in Manhattan, armed with a clipboard full of voter registration forms. Her goal was to convince people stop and fill one out.
Her trick: a charm offensive.
“You just have to work your magic,” said Alma, who had already convinced four people to register in under an hour. “You have to look happy. You have to speak to people polite. That’s all.”
Her partner David Simon, also 15, landed his first customer in Ernesto Ortiz. The 77-year-old completed the registration form, and then ranted about the last time he tried to vote. He remembered casting a ballot for President Barack Obama — but then it went downhill.
“My name does not appear no place,” complained Ortiz. “Next election, ‘No you are not here.’ I say, forget it. I never vote again.”
That’s the kind of experience that breeds mistrust — a sense the system is rigged — that has become a theme of this election cycle. The mission of the non-profit group Dominicanos USA is to find people who have had those experiences — people like Ortiz — and bring them into the political process or restore their faith in it.
Over the past three years, the organization has spent roughly $3 million on a voter registration campaign, collecting nearly 130,000 voter registration forms, primarily in New York City and also in Providence, R.I., which like New York has a large Dominican American population.
In fact, Dominican Americans are the largest immigrant group in New York, with a population of more than 673,000, according to the 2014 American Community Survey. That includes both foreign-born and native-born residents.
In the weeks before this year’s general election, WNYC is taking a magnifying glass to our democracy to explore what it takes to participate as a voter. It’s part of a project we’re calling Electionland – with our partners at ProPublica and Google News. This will culminate in a nationwide examination of how our electoral system performs on election day.
To harness the political power of this population, the group’s founders started crunching the numbers at the end of 2013.
“Basically we started out of my apartment, looking at models that have worked in the past,” said Eddie Cuesta, Dominicanos USA’s national director. One of those models is Atrévete Con Tu Voto, a campaign that registered and mobilized voters in New York City’s Puerto Rican community in the early 1990s.
Nydia Velázquez, then the director of the Office of Puerto Rico in New York, launched the campaign to increase Latino political participation though community organizing and voter registration. She was elected to the United States Congress in 1992 as the first Puerto Rican woman from New York, and she’s held the seat ever since.
The Atrévete campaign is cited in a book called Latino Politics in Massachusetts: Struggles, Strategies and Prospects. The authors said the strategy challenges the stereotype that large numbers of immigrants are more interested in politics back home than they are here. In fact, Cuesta says, immigrants who follow politics at home are more easily engaged here.
Cuesta said they hired a data firm out of Washington D.C. called Catalist to help them create a Dominican model, which allowed them to target voter registration efforts in territories where they knew there were large populations of Dominican Americans. The group’s initial funding came from the Vicini family, wealthy Dominican sugar tycoons. But the group has recruited new funders in the last year, including other businesses from the Dominican Republic and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Experts in voter registration credit Dominicanos USA with running a meticulous, state-of-the–art operation that also illustrates just how much work it takes to turn a completed registration form into an active voter on the rolls. “Dominicanos USA really sets a gold standard for what citizen groups can do in terms of voter engagement and voter registration,” said Art Chang, chairman of the Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Assistance Committee, which aims to improve New York City elections.
Omar Suarez, the group’s New York director, said each form they collect is scanned for their records and the information is entered into a database. Domincanos USA tries to make it easier on the Board of Elections by thoroughly checking the forms it collects. If a piece of information is missing, or if the handwriting makes it unclear, they will reach out to the individual before submitting the form.
“We also call some of these people, 25 percent of them, to make sure they are who they say they are, and the information is correct,” said Suarez.
The data company Catalist also helps Dominicanos manage this trove of information and track the progress of their registration efforts.
Suarez brings bundles of these forms to the city Board of Elections office on a regular basis. He said they also do quality control: When the final voter rolls come out, Dominicanos matches them against its own records. Suarez says about 80 percent of the registration forms they send in come out on the rolls at the other end.
For that other 20 percent, he said they follow up with the Board of Elections.
The process on the Board of Elections side is similar. Forms are time-stamped and checked against the voter rolls to prevent duplication. Then they are scanned to create an electronic record. From there, staff must type each piece of information correctly in the official voter registration system. But the Board of Elections staff say deciphering people’s handwriting is often the hardest part.
Seeing their community represented
In 2015, Dominicanos USA registered more than 35,000 voters in New York, according to data from Catalist. That’s 15 percent of all new registrations processed by the city Board of Elections, according to the board’s annual report.
Cuesta, the group’s national director, said they don’t favor individual candidates. “We are nonpartisan,” Cuesta said.
But the organization’s leaders do want to see their community represented. And representation is exactly what they got this year.
In June, State Senator Adriano Espaillat won the Democratic primary in the 13th Congressional District by 1,200 votes. Next month, he is expected to become the first Dominican American ever elected to Congress. The district is the historic Harlem seat and has been held by an African American since it was created in 1944. But data shows Dominicanos USA registered 32,500 voters in CD 13 since 2013. It’s likely many of them voted for Espaillat.
Dominicanos USA, though, is also focused on civic engagement at its foundation. It’s organizers conduct voter registration drives outside naturalization ceremonies for any new citizen willing to complete the form. They’ve also recently started to conduct naturalization workshops to help people navigate the process of becoming a new citizen.
“It’s like we’re building something up that’s bigger than all of us. Not just one vote,” said Suarez. “We’re making a huge cultural change, a generational shift, and I want to be part of that.”
Nuevamente Dominicanos USA de la ciudad de Nueva York, tuvo el honor de recibir una delegación de Santo Domingo, República Dominicana. La visita se llevó a cabo el dia 8 septiembre del presente ano, consistió de veinticinco estudiantes de la Universidad Iberoamericana quienes estuvieron acompañados por Laura Povedano, M. Ed. Coordinadora Académica del Decanato de Graduados. Asi mismo, Elba Arias, Vice Presidenta del Popular Community Bank de Nueva York, que realizó una breve descripción sobre el trabajo que ella desempeña.
Para nosotros fue un placer poder contar con su presencia y infundir en los estudiantes el propósito de nuestra labor y el funcionamiento de nuestra organización. Ademas, afianzar la importancia del lazo comercial que existe entre ambos paises.
El Sr. Eddie Cuesta, National Executive Director, realizó una presentación dirigida a los estudiantes brindándoles una visión clara del campo en el que se desenvolverian como futuros profesionales.
DUSA se regocija por la disposición y apoyo para con nosotros de los jóvenes y con brazos abiertos esperamos construir una sólida relación entre la comunidad Dominico-Americana.
DUSACitinzenship – Dominicanos USA is excited to announce that we are officially expanding our services into helping our community become US Citizens! With this new program, called DUSA Citizenship, we plan to engage the Dominican community in the naturalization process.