Taco Trucks Offer Limited-Time Side Dish: Voter Registration

Taco 'bout a revolution: Taco truck-based voter registration sites launch in Texas, Arizona and beyond. (Photo: Josep Suria/Shutterstock)

Last month, Marco Gutierrez, a Mexico-born surrogate for Mexico-bashing Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, took to MSNBC to broadcast a dire warning as to what might happen if his candidate of choice lost the upcoming election:

“My culture is a very dominant culture, and it’s imposing and it’s causing problems. If you don’t do something about it, you’re going to have taco trucks on every corner.”

To this America responded: Bring it.

Now, in the wake of Gutierrez's comments, mobile dispensaries of delicious Mexican street food in Houston, Austin and several other cities across Texas and the Southwest are playing an unusual role in this year’s unique — “unique” being the understatement of the century — presidential election: they’re doubling as voter registration centers.

It was Guiterrez’s meant-to-be-minatory remarks the inspired the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC) to launch the so-called Guac the Vote initiative. While the effort serves as something of a mole-slathered nightmare scenario for Guiterrez, the USHCC is not actively campaigning for Trump’s opponent, Hillary Clinton — the organization is simply encouraging taco-lovers of all stripes to fill out voter registration forms while they wait for their grub.

As the New York Times recently reported, Houston boasts its own taco truck-as-voter-registration-center movement within the larger national Guac the Vote initiative.

"It was offensive to some," Houston-based designer Thomas Hull told the Times of Gutierrez's comments. "At the same time, those of us who live here in Texas find it humorous because there are taco trucks on every corner and we love them."

Hull, in collaboration with nonpartisan Latino voter engagement organization Ma Familia Vota, have helped to transform a total of eight Houston taco trucks into pop-up voter registration hubs. Today, by the way, is the final day that Texan taco truck patrons will have the opportunity to fill out the requisite voter registration paperwork while waiting for their order of carne asada-stuffed tortillas. So, please, get out there and grab yourself some lunch if you haven't already. (In addition to Texas, voter registration ends today in 11 other states as well with Florida's deadline being extended due to Hurricane Matthew).

In Arizona, birthplace of the chimichanga, the state’s Democratic Party is working alongside the pollo-slinging proprietors of over 150 taco trucks to offer quick and easy voter registration as an additional, limited-time menu item. In both Arizona and Texas along with other states with large Latino populations including California, Florida and Nevada, Google searches for the term “register to vote” have skyrocketed in recent weeks, according to the Times.

As Hull explains, the Houston initiative is specifically targeting non-registered Latino voters although, of course, the trucks themselves pull in a diverse clientele. After all, taco love transcends ethnic barriers. “We have a targeted focus on the Latino community given that they historically haven't been as active in voting," says Hull. "But, given how low Texas voter turnout is, we've got work to do across everybody.”

Although Guac the Vote is arguably the first and most visible (and some would say most delicious) food truck-based voter registration drive of the 2016 election cycle, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is hungry for a piece of the action. After all, marrying voter registration with his city's ubiquitous yet staggeringly diverse street food scene seems like a no-brainer.

And so, given that the clock is ticking for street food-scarfing New Yorkers who have yet to register (the deadline for New York State is Oct. 14), de Blasio and his administration have launched the #NoshTheVote initiative. A slew of food carts and trucks across the five boroughs are now, for one day only, doubling as voter registration sites. Vendors include and are certainly not limited to: Souvlaki Lady in Astoria, Queens; Sam’s Falafel in Lower Manhattan; Tacos el Rancho in Sunset Park, Brooklyn; and Fauzia’s Heavenly Delights, a popular West Indian food truck based in the Grand Concourse section of the Bronx.

Craving South Asian dumplings and looking to finally register to vote after putting it off for eons? Only in New York City will you find a single place to take care of both these normally completely unrelated needs in one fell swoop.

Click here to view voter registration deadlines by state. And Happy Taco Tuesday, by the way.