Monday, November 3, 2008

NEVADA: Progressive Leadership Alliance Invests in Young Volunteers

Even though Nevada has been considered a bastion of voter and civic apathy, the Progressive Leadership Alliance is getting historically underrepresented communities invested in the promise of social, economic and political change.

“The results have been dramatic,” said Beverly Rodriguez, a PLAN organizer. “We focused on the communities of new citizens, particularly Hispanics, and we’ve turned out thousands of new voters.”

In Las Vegas, PLAN reached more than 3,100 people directly through a door-to-door canvass over the last two weeks. The canvass worked from a universe of more than 5,600 first-time voters, including more than 2,300 new citizens whom PLAN volunteers and staff registered following citizenship ceremonies in Las Vegas.

PLAN’s Meredith McGhan also helped build the high-value universe of new voters by registering hundreds of former felons, overcoming bureaucratic difficulties and contradictory state laws. “Without PLAN, these men and women may never have restored their right to vote,” McGhan said.

In Reno, the Silver State’s other urban center, PLAN worked throughout the year to register minorities, and staged a dramatic march to the polls through the city’s downtown on October 18th, the first day of early voting.

PLAN was just one of many nonprofit groups doing outreach to various communities in Nevada, but PLAN’s effort was built around a core of young activists, especially young women and men of color.

Victor Rascon, 18, is one of the many volunteers who has injected so much energy into PLAN's voter work. Victor is an Army ROTC student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and he has volunteered at events sponsored by PLAN, the Sierra Club, SkyOne and other progressive organizations in Southern Nevada. Victor also joined the ranks of PLAN canvassers working to ensure that communities of color, economically disenfranchised people and other historically underrepresented voting groups get to the polls and vote.

Victor is a talented freehand artist who comes in early to the PLAN office and strums his guitar while waiting to hit the doors or the phones. Victor's family is originally from Chihuaha, Mexico, but they immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life. But since the economic downturn, his mother has joined the ranks of thousands of people in Las Vegas struggling to find work as the region's unemployment rate approaches 8 percent.

“I’m worried about Mom. I’m sometimes really concerned that she might not have money for rent,” Victor said. Without steady work, the family has had to move a lot, and that means his younger sister, a high school student, doesn’t have a stable school situation – “So that sucks,” Victor says.

But Victor believes in the power of community and people to make a difference. “There are opportunities to make changes. As a community it’s important to get involved, especially the Latino community. If they get out to vote, there will be a change.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow-what an organization! I need to re-examine my bias against the military after seeing this young progressive volunteer enrolled in ROTC.
Nevada: Good on ya!