Latino voting: Let the campaign (and competition) begin
State Representatives Angel Cruz and Leslie Acosta organized a Latino voter registration event on Feb. 28, a call for action to mobilize the vote in the Latino community and “build political empowerment through unity and alliances within the community.”
“We are doing several of these registration events to make it as easy as possible for residents to vote. There are no excuses, that is why we are here to demonstrate that in unity lies strength,” Cruz said. “We are going to demonstrate that the Latino vote must be earned and respected.”
In addition to registering voters and providing general information, mayoral candidate Nelson Díaz and candidate for the District Seven Manny Morales attended the event to greet voters and gather signatures for their petitions.
Cruz said he fully endorses Díaz for mayor and that he plans to officially announce his endorsement, along with other Latino Democratic leaders, on March 5 at Casa de España restaurant.
He also highlighted the importance of unity within the community and said that he believes Morales is the candidate to achieve that, criticizing Councilwoman María Quiñones-Sánchez for not endorsing Díaz.
“Quiñones has the habit of supporting the candidates that the party doesn’t want to support. She also openly supports Republicans”, Cruz said. “Those are reasons for the party not to support her. She said it is a racist party but the party has supported Angel Ortiz, Juan Ramos, Rafael Acosta, and Judge Nitza Quiñones Alejandro. This is a job for the community as a whole not for a single person.”
‘We want to see change’
Members of the Philadelphia City Commissioners Office and the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women (NACOPRW) were in charge of registering attendees, distributing information about the absentee ballot as well as copies of the voter’s guide in English and Spanish.
“The first barrier for Latino voters is to understand the electoral process, a lot of people are afraid of it and don’t know where to start,” said Lourdes Hernandez, national president of NACOPRW. “Another barrier is that many believe their vote doesn’t matter and we need to change that mentality. A single vote can win or lose an election.”
Representing the City Commissioners Office was chief deputy city commissioner Norys Colon-González, who distributed the commissioners’ voter guide, a handbook that — for the first time in Philadelphia — is also printed in Spanish.
“You have some people that say ‘I don’t vote because I don’t understand those machines (and) ‘I don’t want nobody coming in with me’ and we can help you with all that,” Colon-González, who said that anyone who would like to obtain copies of the voter’s guide can contact her at (215) 686-3460 or visit the commissioner's office at City Hall, room 132.
Gilberto Otero, a North Philly resident for seven years, said he signed Nelson Díaz’s petition and that he can only hope he turns out to be a good candidate. “We are here because we know our vote is important. There are a lot of people who don’t want to get out of their house but we want to see a change in our situation,” Otero said.
Pedro Sanabria, resident in Philadelphia for almost 40 years said he has voted all his life. “Personally I am very discreet with my vote and I only give it to the candidate that deserves it. Latinos should participate because the city deserves a change, they need to get information and get out to vote because otherwise we are not going anywhere.”
The last day to register to vote in the primary elections is April 20.