Texas quinceañeras to offer voter registration at their coming of age parties


AUSTIN (KXAN) — A Texas-based nonprofit is aiming to bolster the Latino vote by offering young women the opportunity to hold voter registration booths at their quinceañeras. And they already have their first parties booked. 

The 501c3 organization Jolt Initiative launched Poder Quince, with the hope that young women will provide the opportunity for their family members to register at their coming of age parties. The effort launched in Dallas, Houston and Austin last week.

Participants will receive a free photo booth, a Snapchat Geofilter geotagged to their venue, and Jolt promises one winner will have a celebrity guest appearance. 

“The reason why we’re using the quinceañeras is because it’s also a time to honor the family and so we thought what best way to honor the family than to have voter registration and have these girls defend the rights of their family,” said Daniela Rojas, who is a community organizer in Austin with Jolt Initiative.

The idea sprouted last legislative session when 15 quinceañeras, mostly from Austin, showed up decked out in their puffy, adorned dresses at the Texas State Capitol to protest SB4. The controversial bill, which went into effect in Texas in May 2017, requires local government and law enforcement to follow all federal immigration laws and detainer requests, with the threat of criminal charges if the law is neglected.

Rojas said she hopes the attention that was sparked at that protest will translate into interest in their initiative, leading to more votes come next election.

“A quinceañera in the Latino community is a tradition to mark the change from a little girl to becoming a woman and so we’re using this as a way to empower young Latinas and at the same time to defend our families,” she said.

Jolt aims to book 15 quinceñearas per week and they are hoping to register 5,000 voters in the next 8 months.

“We are becoming the majority but that’s not what’s being represented and if we want to change the state then we have to go out there and vote and this is not gonna happen if we don’t start cultivating these ideas to the young generations,” Rojas said.

According to Jolt, 95 percent of Latinos under 18-years-old are U.S. citizens and will soon be eligible to vote, and over the next decade, two million Latinos will turn 18 in Texas. 

Of course, those who are turning 15 won’t necessarily be able to vote, not right away at least, but Rojas said getting them in the mindset of making a change while they are young is key.

“Making these young people aware that they’re 15 now but three years after that they’ll be 18 and then they’ll have the power to choose who is making the laws, who is the president of the United States, just really focusing on the fact that they have the power to change what Texas looks like and really ensure that our community is protected.”

Whether getting all of them registered will actually translate into votes is up for discussion. However, according to new numbers released this month from Pew Research Center, there was a 40 percent increase Hispanic in voter turnout during the 2018 midterm elections. Those new numbers also show that Latino voters nearly doubled from 2014 to 2018.

“This is an opportunity to really have a cultural shift and to really get our community engaged,” Rojas said.

To spread the word in Austin they are hoping to eventually get the information to Austin area high schools and have a presence at quinceañera expos. Their first quinceañeras with the initiative are happening in Houston this weekend.

Register online to have your special day be a part of Poder Quince here.

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