Ballot Blocked Episode 5: Mexican American Voting Rights

A group of men stand in front of a truck with a Voter Registration drive
A voter registration drive organized by Chicano/as in Quincy, WA, c. 1970.

Credit: Collection of Jerry Garcia.

In this episode, we learn more about the barriers to voting faced by Mexican Americans in the years after World War II. As the anniversary of the 19th amendment approached in 2020, news reports celebrated the event as a milestone in voting access. Yet, many women, especially women of color, remained disenfranchised for decades after the amendment’s ratification.

In the western United States, Mexican American women faced numerous obstacles in their attempts to vote. For example, some counties in Washington State still required literacy tests, even after they were supposed to be banned by the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA). English-only elections also continued to take place well into the 1970s.

To learn more about this history and to understand how Mexican Americans in Washington State challenged discriminatory laws we interviewed Dr. Josué Q. Estrada. Dr. Estrada is a historian at Central Washington University, who studies the history of Latinx voting rights in the United States. His research documents the ongoing attempts to limit political participation in rural Yakima County in the years before and after passage of the VRA. Determind to expand voting access, Mexican Americans filed suit in the court system and pursued grassroots organizing campaigns to expand voter registration, with women playing a key role in both efforts.

Part of a series of articles titled Ballot Blocked Podcast.

Last updated: August 16, 2021