Latino Political Innovation Zones

In 2022, the Equis’ Moonshots team embarked on a program that we had never done before—taking our research beyond polling and focus groups and into the real world of campaigning, called Latino Political Innovation Zones (LAPIZ).

During the 2022 Midterm elections, LAPIZ aimed to answer the following question: If Latinos in historically neglected areas of the United States were to be engaged with robust and layered programming and communication in pre-designated zones via smart, sustained, and culturally competent outreach, could we could increase Latino turnout more effectively than standard GOTV tactics? 

Underlying the design and implementation of the LAPIZ program was the “full court press” theory of Latino engagement. We theorized that the best way to increase Latino turnout  in places where Latinos have been historically neglected is to create a sense that Latinos—as individuals and as a community—are being courted because their vote is genuinely important. 

To do that, we argued, Latino programs need to be smart, sustained, localized and inclusive: 

Smart - using tactical best practices combined with local knowledge

Sustained - showing up early and maintaining a consistent presence

Localized - taking time to understand the community and working with local actors

Inclusive - going broad with tactics and targeting

Our theory was that individual tactics need to interact with one another to produce additional positive effects. When we layer tactics together in this way, the whole can become more than the sum of its parts

To deploy this work, our team and partners identified two key zones in which to test this theory: Kings and Tulare counties in California, and Doña Ana County in New Mexico. 

Over the course of the cycle, the LAPIZ program resulted in a total of 49 organizing events, over 330,000 doors knocked across both zones, over 56,000 people contacted in person and an additional 77,000 over the phone.

In doing so, we demonstrated that it is possible to stand up a large-scale, Latino-led and Latino focused program in neglected communities by working with local partner organizations and combining community organizing and electoral work. This approach helped to build relationships between national, state and local community-based organizations, increased infrastructure and capacity among our local partners, and employed effective messengers from within the Latino community in a way that made members of that community feel seen, heard and valued as never before. 

After the 2022 election, we conducted a rigorous analysis of turnout. In both of our LAPIZ Zones in 2022 (CA and NM), we found that LAPIZ was incredibly successful as a GOTV strategy. We are incredibly proud that:

  • We were able to bring culturally competent + rigorous field programming to places where both are rarely done together.
  • We were able to invest in local leaders and organizations in these communities. These organizations and leaders built coalitions, advised, and led the work on the ground.
  • We were able to bring national groups, funders, and leaders into the fold to join us in investing in turning out voters.

While the program results answered many questions and highlighted others, we were excited to learn:

The importance of first-time contacts— Latino voters contacted for the first time increased their motivation and intent to vote in the election, and also increased their sense of efficacy and fear of missing out if they didn’t vote. This is game-changing, as prevailing wisdom among practitioners is to focus resources solely on people (regardless of demographics) who have some track record of voting - in other words, people that have been contacted before.

Community efficacy is an important motivator for voters— One of the most important learnings from LAPIZ was in how the program built efficacy through the identity of the community. The program took time to learn about the identities that were relevant in the community, and invoked them consistently through traditional outreach tactics, media, marketing, and community coalition building. The design of the community coalitions, Juntos por el Valle and Juntos por Doña Ana, found that even just the name of those coalitions were important motivators for Latinos to feel like they were being invited to the table. Qualitatively, voters reported that efficacy wasn’t as effective on the individual level, or at the level of Latinos as a whole, but in the idea that their community’s voice mattered, was important, and was being invited to the table.

Ultimately, the LAPIZ case study confirms our theory that robust, sustained engagement within Latino communities that have been historically and systematically neglected can increase civic engagement. With that sustained engagement comes serious investment in communities like Kings, Tulare and Doña Ana Counties to make notable differences for the Latino electorate. LAPIZ also makes clear that it takes the combined efforts of local, state and national efforts to build strong and consistent program for our communities that give Latinos the confidence and motivation for civic participation. 

Our LAPIZ Moonshot is about continuing to invest in and co-create culturally competent programs with community partners and community leaders. In 2024, we will continue to build upon our learnings from 2022, build infrastructure, and invest in learning and scaling what increases Latino voter turnout quickly and dramatically.

Stay in the loop with Equis

Equis is a set of organizations working to create a better understanding of Latinos, innovate new approaches to reach and engage them, and invest in the leadership and infrastructure for long-term change and increased engagement.

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