Numerous Hispanic organizations want to convince the 21.3 million eligible Latinos to make their way to the ballot box this coming Nov. 6.

Faced with the upcoming presidential elections Nov. 6, several Hispanic organizations have begun to promote the Latino vote in hopes that the community's strong political influence may be felt as much as its population growth. 

Given the growth of the Latino community, evidenced by the most recent Census,  a number of Hispanic organizations have launched campaigns in hopes that Hispanic political power will be felt at the presidential elections this coming November.

(Read Spanish version / Lea versión en español: Latinos en campaña)

According to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO), Hispanics will vote in record numbers in the upcoming presidential elections in which, following the exit of Rick Santorum, it is likely Mitt Romney will be challenging President Barack Obama, who now campaigns for reelection. 

Projections for the upcoming voting – based on participation rates in the past four presidential elections – estimate that roughly 12.2 million Latinos will vote.    

This total would be greater if the estimated 21.3 million eligible Latinos exercised this privilege by registering to vote, and later casting their vote.     

NALEO estimates may be too optimistic however, judging by the most recent Census Bureau Population Survey. The survey indicates that while the Latino population is indeed on the rise, the number of registered voters continues to decline. 

According to the poll, which was published this past month, the number of Latinos registered to vote fell from 11.6 million, in 2008, to 10.9 million in 2010. 

While one must acknowledge that the numbers certainly reflect that the elections of 2008 were presidential while those of 2010 were legislative, this decline remains "worrisome" given the overall growth of the Latino population.

The William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI) compared the results of the Population Survey from 1972 through 2010, finding that while the number of Latino voters had been steadily growing for the past 25 years, 2010 marked the first year in which participation waned. 

Antonio González, the president of WCVI, said that "For the first time since 1970, Latino voter registration did not grow in consecutive, non-presidential elections. The registry of Latino participants declined only slightly in 2006, but significantly in 2010. The fall in national registration of Latino voters in 2010 could decrease this community's participation in the November 2012 elections by more than a million votes."

WCVI asserts that, following trends, the number of Hispanics registered to vote in 2010 should have grown to 12 million, but instead, that number decreased to 11 million.  

"The new trend in voter registry is significant growth in presidential elections, followed by a contraction in non-presidential elections," said Vice-president of WCVI, Patricia González.

States including California, Texas, Nevada, Florida, Washington, New Mexico, Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, all "experienced significant declines" in voter participation between 2009 and 2010. 

WCVI cites the recession, mortgage crisis and unemployment – all of which affected Latinos disproportionately – as some of the reasons why participation lessened.

According to González, "When you change residences, you have to reregister yourself to vote; we suspect that this did not happen in 2009 and 2010." 

In disagreement with NALEO, which foresees 12.2 million Latino voters for 2012, WCVI does not expect Latino participation to surpass 10.5 million.

Mobilizing the vote

On March 22, the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) launched its campaign, Mobilized to Vote (M2V). The goal is to encourage the participation of 180,000 eligible Latino voters.   

Janet Murguía, the president of NCLR, said that "As the largest – and still growing – minority group in the country, Latinos will help to determine the results of numerous elections at local, state, and national levels. 

"While our population has grown enormously, the goal is to convert that growth into real political influence," she added.

The director of civic participation, Clarissa Martínez, said that, taking into account that election margins continue to thin, Latinos can have a great impact even in states where they are underrepresented.  

She added that in 2008, for example, the number of Latinos who voted was greater than the margin of victory in North Carolina and Indiana. 

While everyone can participate in M2V via internet, Hispanic homes in the select states of Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, California and Texas will also be getting door-to-door visits from the campaign.  

Citizenship to vote

Earlier this month, NCLR phoned all immigrants who fulfill the United States' requirements for citizenship, to ask that they apply before the end of April. Doing so would allow them to take part in the upcoming elections this year.

"As new Americans, we have an incredible strength; we are very powerful with regard to this country's new political situation," Martínez said.

Applications for naturalization were due April 25, a day that coincided with the Supreme Court hearings regarding the constitutionality of Arizona's immigration law SB1070.

NCLR urged immigrants to participate in order to avoid other states adopting legislation of a similar nature. 

"To become a citizen is a critical step immigrants must take if they wish to be fully incorporated in this nation's civic and political life," Martínez added.

The organization takes pains to remind people that more than 8 million immigrants are eligible for citizenship, and thus have the potential to exercise their right to vote. 

Stars promote youth voting

Since 2004, the organization Voto Latino, founded in part by actress Rosario Dawson – who is known for her work in Sin City and Death Proof – has been a leader in promoting voter participation among young Latinos.

Through the use of online networking and social media, the organization has succeeded in convincing 120,000 Latino youths to register and participate in the electoral process. 

Musicians like reggae and hip-hop artist Pitbull, Paulina Rubio, and Puerto Rican pop-star Ricky Martin, have participated in commercials promoting Voto Latino. Dawson herself has even played the lead in voting-inspired telenovela satires such as, "The Passion of the Decision" – which can be viewed on YouTube or iTunes – alongside Wilder Valderrama. 

According to Voto Latino, 33 percent of those Latinos who are eligible to vote are 18-34 years old. And furthermore, each month 50 Hispanic youths will turn 18.

The organization's web site states: "Politicians respond to two things: money and votes. The ability to vote is the great equalizer of our democracy – it does not matter how much money you have, your level of education, the color of your skin or your gender. Your vote is your greatest source of power. Either you use it, or you lose it."  The ultimate goal of Voto Latino is to persuade 9 million young Latinos to make use their power to vote. 

"We have lost our homes, our jobs, our ability to pay for school and, in some cases, our families. If this does not make us vote now, what will?" Dawson said.

She added that, in light of poverty levels, unemployment, deportations, and the approval of anti-immigrant legislation, along with initiatives that limit suffrage rights by requiring official identification, "There has never been a more crucial moment to exercise our collective power and move our country forward."

Via social networking, the 'disconnected' will also be reached

Latinos in Social Media (LATISM), a platform with more than 134,000 subscribed online users, announced their collaboration with NALEO  April 11. The organization's plan is to promote immigrant naturalization and the Latino vote as part of its campaign titled, "Now is Time."

"As the name of the campaign suggests, it is time for all members of our community to be complete and active participants in the political processes of our country," said Elianne Ramos, the vice-president of LATISM.

The director of NALEO, Arturo Vargas, said that the collaboration with LATISM would help ensure that the Latino community has the necessary information in time for the coming elections. 

Members of LATISM – who are active on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and more – hope that their efforts will carry over to those members of the Latino community who do not utilize social media.

"We are going to raise national awareness online, while also acting locally. With such a large online network, it is essential that these resources be utilized to the community's benefit," Ramos said.

Through the mobilization of their vast online network – which is accessible via www.latism.org – LATISM plans to implement strategies based on the available resources within each locality, so that it may educate and inform the community of the importance in exercising voting rights.

Ramos also said that, aside from NALEO and LATISM, there are numerous organizations collaborating on this project.

"We need the continued participation of all organizations involved to ensure that our efforts bring about results." 

*Translated by Alex Graziano

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