Houston’s #GuacTheVote voter registration campaign proved so successful this year that Mayor Bill de Blasio adopted the idea with a New York accent, launching #NoshTheVote with a fleet of food truck vendors across the city.
The four-day event, which used 12 local food trucks to bring registration forms to eligible voters, took place from Oct. 11 until Oct. 14, the registration deadline for New York.
“I think we can safely say this presidential election is very dramatic,” said DeBlasio in front of Amdo Tibet Momo Truck in Jackson Heights, Queens. “It has huge consequences for the future and it’s so important that people participate.”
The New York and Houston Twitter-based initiatives were aimed to drive a boost in registered voters ahead of the presidential election on November 8. While #GuacTheVote employed taco trucks to spread its message, #NoshTheVote, a nod to the Yiddish phrase that means to snack, enlisted a variety of ethnic food trucks to represent the diversity of New York City.
One of the trucks represented NY Dosas, an award-winning vendor based in Washington Square Park for the last 15 years. The truck serves samosas, chickpea-filled savory pastries, and dosas, fermented rice pancakes stuffed with lentils.
Thiru Kumar, owner of NY Dosas, watched approvingly as 20 of his regular customers picked up registration forms on the first day. “I know a lot of people don’t like to register because they’re embarrassed they can’t read the form or they just don’t know how [to register],” said Kumar.
Food for Thought
Though the mayor’s office had no concrete registration numbers, it considered NoshTheVote “a big success,” said mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Ramos. “A big part of the effort was just making sure eligible voters had access to forms in their preferred language,” she said.
This year, five new languages were added to registration forms and voting ballots: Arabic, Urdu, Haitian Creole, Russian and French.
The Houston campaign stemmed from outrage over comments made by Latinos for Trump founder Marco Gutierrez, who told MSNBC Sept. 1 that his “people would permeate American life if left unchecked,” and warned America “is going to have taco trucks on every corner.”
As a rebuttal, Thomas Hull, a graphic designer based in Houston, Texas, started #GuactheVote with eight taco trucks around the Houston metro area. The movement then gained traction in cities like Austin, Texas, Detroit and Las Vegas, all promoting similar food truck registration hubs.
“I think it was a way to not only get possible voters registered but also [it] showed the support of the Latin community in the States.” said Eduardo Thomas, as he balanced a registration form on top of his steaming take-out container. For Thomas, picking up a form along with his lunch was “much less intimidating than finding a government building.”
New York has some of the strictest voting parameters in the nation, according to the city Board of Elections. New Yorkers have a registration deadline that’s almost three weeks before the election; eligible voters in 37 other states can register up until the day of.
Less that 20 percent of eligible New Yorkers voted in the primary in April, the second-lowest turnout in the nation, according to Michael McDonald, a political science professor at University of Florida who specializes in election analysis. Board of Elections data shows more than 2 million eligible voters remain unregistered.