Will Disillusionment Drive Latinos To or Away From Polls?

Latinos took a big hit during the recession. Immigration reform is on the back burner. Latinos have been violently targeted. And that's with a Democrat in the White House. Will disillusionment keep Latinos from the poll or bring them to the polls?

(Flickr: remydwd)

via Univision News



Channel: Politics

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) has launched a multi-state voter registration operation ahead of the 2012 election with the goal of encouraging Latinos to participate in the political process, despite the difficulties the community has felt since the last election.

The initiative, titled Mobilize 2 Vote, is intended to register 180,000 eligible Latino voters in key swing states such as Nevada, Colorado, and Florida, as well as other states with long-standing and emerging Latino populations, such as, Texas, California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina. NCLR, the nation’s largest Latino advocacy group, seeks to raise between $6 million and $7 million to fund the campaign, according to Clarissa Martinez De Castro, the director of civic engagement.

With 12.2 million Latinos expected to vote in 2012, political observers believe that the group could play a decisive role in the presidential election. But there is also a sense that Latinos, a community battered by the recession and largely disappointed of the lack of progress on immigration reform, could stay home from the polls.

“Because we haven’t seen a lot of progress, we can allow disillusionment to set in and say that we shouldn’t show up on Election Day because it doesn’t make a difference,” Martinez De Castro said in an interview with Univision News. “What I would say to that is that the disillusionment and the frustration is legitimate. But one election is not enough and we need to continue demonstrating the growing power of the Latino electorate so that folks understand they cannot demonize us.”

NCLR joins a litany of Latino organizations running get-out-the-vote operations ahead of this year’s 2012 election, including Univision and the Pitbull-backed Voto Latino campaign, but it’s looking to build upon its previous voter registration drives.

Martinez De Castro said that the group is bolstering its digital outreach and has fully integrated a successful field model from the group Democracia USA into its efforts. In addition to the online contact, NCLR plans to use community groups and one-on-one canvassing efforts through its field offices and affiliates to boost awareness about voter registration and make voting and political participation a habitual activity for more Latinos.

“At the end of the day, what a voter really cares about isn’t what happens on Election Day, it’s what happened afterwards,” said Martinez De Castro.

The effort to close the sizable gap between eligible and registered Latino voters still could be a heavy lift for Latino groups like NCLR. The current political circumstances have taken a toll on Latino enthusiasm; 46 percent of Latino likely voters say they were more excited to vote in 2008, when President Obama was first elected, than they are in 2012, according to a JanuaryUnivision News/ABC News/Latino Decisions poll. By comparison, 38 percent said the opposite.

Plus, the Latino community has some built-in characteristics that make registering voters difficult.

The population tends to be younger than the national average, and younger people vote in lower numbers than older ones. Latinos are generally more mobile than other demographic groups, and people who live in one place tend to vote more. That’s not to mention that many eligible Latinos have work circumstances (such as holding two jobs) that make it difficult to find time to vote, said Martinez De Castro.

The presence of super PACs backing both Republicans and Democrats, she added, could help depress turn out by airing negative ads throughout the cycle. It could also make raising money difficult.

The initiative has gotten off to a modest start, 4,000 new voters have been registered in March, the first month of the initiative. That pace would need to increase rapidly for the group to meet their goal.

Despite the herculean effort it could take to reverse these trends, Martinez De Castro said that Latinos are already an extremely influential voting bloc, explaining that 2 million new Latinos vote in every new presidential election, and that pace is only increasing with population growth.

“The candidate of our campaign is the Latino voter. It is very clear that both of these parties should not neglect their outreach to this population because they will be very influential,” she said.

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