Jazmin Villagomez went through high school without really understanding how the political process works and how she could play a part in it. But now, as a young adult, she’s getting students all across Las Vegas civically engaged through her work as a voter-registration organizer with the Latinx-focused group Mi Familia Vota.
In Jazmin’s outreach to high school and college students — now mostly virtual since COVID-19 forced many schools to close — she speaks to classes to explain why voting is important and walks them through the process of registering. “Since I'm kind of young, I can talk to them in a way that they understand,” she explains. “It makes me more approachable to them and they’re more interested in being engaged.”
Villagomez’s work with Mi Familia Vota, which connects with the Latino community in several states to inform, engage, and build their political power, isn’t limited to students. “It's important for us to focus on the Latinx community because when it comes to representation here locally or even nationally, it's super important for us to have people in office that look like me, that look like other folks.”
She knows Latinos have the numbers to make a difference, but they can also face huge challenges in getting to the polls. “Our people sometimes work two, three jobs to support their families. And unfortunately, they don't have the luxury of being able to call off work and missing that pay to go vote.” She’d eventually like to see the voting hours expanded further in Nevada. This year the pandemic has brought different challenges. There are new processes, and for Villagomez, that means educating potential voters on how to register online, and walking them through the process of voting by mail.
Mi Familia Vota also works with the community to help them navigate the process of becoming citizens. For her part, Villagomez would wait outside the naturalization ceremonies to help the brand-new citizens register. “It was honestly my favorite day of the week, because they were so happy,” she says. “And you didn't even have to really give them a little nudge to register to vote. They just automatically wanted to do it, and that was amazing.”
Villagomez believes in her power, as just one person, to create change. “I change one person's perspective and then they go and talk to someone else, and next thing you know, you have so many people voting,” she says. “It's being the change you want to see. And I truly do believe in that.”