Founded two years ago as a non-profit civic engagement organization by Cristina Tzintzun Ramirez, Jolt Texas has given the Latinx population a reason to vote this November. The Texas based organization has multiple chapters throughout the state with the mission to collectively build the voice, power and influence of Latinx communities.
Story by Ingrid Garcia
Photos by Ashley Nava
Travis County’s voter registration rate is 92 percent, but only 25 percent of those registered actually voted during the mid-term cycle. With a strong focus on turning out the young Latinx vote, Jolt’s University of Texas at Austin chapter has registered about 600 voters since the beginning of the fall semester. One of their tactics includes reaching out to high school teachers and asking to register their newly 18-year-old students.
However, Jolt’s voter registration efforts don’t stop there. “We’ve been really focused on registering the (college) freshmen classoms,” president of Jolt’s UT-chapter Gabriela Garza says. “One, because they’re giant, but also because they have a really important demographic and that’s that they’re newly 18 and also have just moved to Austin.”
Jolt’s continued goal is to win the dignity and respect the Latinx community deserves, especially as the largest minority group in Texas with an estimated population of 10.8 million.
Garza said although most of the Jolt members are children of immigrants, immigration is not the only issue Jolt tackles. “We’re not a monolith,” Garza says. “We care about a lot of different things. We focus on things like student debt, and the next campaign that we will roll out will be about healthcare. I think eventually we’ll start campaigns for the environment, as well.”
“It’s not that we don’t care. It’s that none of this is geared towards us. No part of the system makes it so that we want to be engaged.” Garza says . “Why should they feel that it matters, right? Who’s doing anything for us?”
Active Jolt member Daniela Rojas shares her reason for joining Jolt as an immigrant attending UT. “I felt like I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines and just not do anything. It was also when SB4 was implemented, and so there was just a lot of, ‘Ok, what can I do that can help somehow?’”
Gyasi, Patillo, and Villanueva registering voters on campus.
Grassroots organizing involves much of the nitty gritty details that are often overlooked. Entering data onto a spreadsheet, registering voters and organizing special events only scratches the surface of what is accomplished, Garza says.
Jolt’s efforts have resulted in an exponential growth in just two years. With 20 new UT-chapter members this semester, Jolt also hopes to expand to 20 more student chapters across Texas next year. “One thing I like about Jolt is that it really interacts with the youth. It makes in fun and interesting (for the youth) to get involved,” Jolt member Erika Benitez says. “Because sometimes people think politics, and they think boring.”
Jolt’s main platform, their Instagram account (@jolttexas), has about 3,800 followers and engages their audience through artwork and the sharing of people’s stories through colorful photos and personal captions. Benitez has experience as a communications intern who actively searched for people to feature on Jolt’s social media accounts. “When I joined Jolt, it was pretty small,” Benitez says. “It was just a group of us trying to make something out of it, and right now, I feel we’re pretty big. People know who Jolt is, and I’m just excited.”