Latinos: Now is the time to vote

Latino groups and Spanish-language media companies are conducting a national campaign called “Ya Es Hora, Ve Y Vota,” which means “Now is the time, go and vote,” giving eligible voters tools to register online and telling them how to locate where they’re supposed to vote in November. One group, impreMedia, recently distributed nearly 1 million voter registration cards in seven states with large Latino populations. The media firm inserted 990,500 voter registration cards into its publications Sept. 26-30 in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas.

Organizers have been leading voter registration and education programs in Latino communities, explaining to people why it’s important to vote. The groups’ message will be broadcast on radio and television spots by media giant Univision Communication and Entravision Communications.

The campaign began two years ago in the aftermath of the massive nationwide demonstrations when millions of people marched in the streets for the rights of undocumented workers and immigration reform. The coalition emerged in order to engage Latinos and immigrant families in the electoral process. It promoted citizenship and aimed to register 1 million Latinos.

A record 1.4 million people applied for naturalization last year, bringing to life the immigrant rights slogan, “Today We March, Tomorrow We Vote.”

The campaign is leading get-out-the-vote drives throughout the U.S. as deadlines for voter registration are fast approaching.

“We have been mobilizing the Latino community especially after all the marches for immigrant rights in 2006,” said Laura Anduze, National Council of La Raza spokesperson and coalition leader in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia.

“We want to explain to people and especially legal residents in the Latino community about how important it is to become a legal citizen, to register and practice their right to vote,” she said.

“It’s important to convince Latinos to vote in order to increase our participation and express our voice on Election Day,” added Anduze. “We vote on issues that are important to us like housing, education and immigration,” she noted. A lot of immigrant parents are voting for the first time and hope to see the passage of the Dream Act in the next administration so that their children have equal opportunity to attend colleges and universities, she said.

The Latino community continues to fight against discrimination and for the rights of undocumented workers today, especially with the anti-immigrant rhetoric, said Anduze. “We need to continue to become a united constituency to get our voices heard. Our vote can ultimately swing this election.”

The group has launched a hip website targeting new citizens and especially young Latinos, bloggers and video makers — www.yovotare.org — which is serving as a one-stop portal to connect Latinos in voter registration efforts, provide voter information and education tools and increase turnout in November. People can also register online at www.naleo.org or call a bilingual voter information hotline at 1-888-Ve-Y-Vota.

“New voters are really the hope of this election and everybody knows it,” said Anduze. “Young people in the Latino community are really excited about this historic election and they are the ones who translate that information back to their Spanish-speaking parents and families.” And given the economic crisis, people are going to pay close attention to what McCain and Obama have to say, she added.

“So if you’re not registered to vote yet, please take two minutes to fill out the form and register and make sure you make your voice heard on Nov. 4,” Anduze said.

According to census figures only 47 percent of Latino voters turned out in the 2004 presidential election, compared with 60 percent of African Americans and 67 percent of non-Hispanic whites. This year a record-breaking turnout of more than 9 million Latino voters is expected, compared with 7.6 million in 2004.

Other groups involved in the “Now is the Time” campaign include the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, We Are America Alliance, the Naleo Educational Fund, Mi Familia Vota Educational Fund and Democracia U.S.A.

plozano @ pww.org