Latino voters are registering for this fall's election at a record pace, and their numbers, if translated into turnout, could be influential, a registration activist says.
"In the last four years, since 2008, the Latino electorate has expanded by about 41 percent, which translates to about 169,000 new Latino voters," said Deyanira Nevarez Martinez, state coordinator for Mi Familia Vota, a nonpartisan citizenship and voter registration advocacy group.
"That is pretty close to the margin of victory for Sen. John McCain (in the presidential election) in the state in 2008," Nevarez Martinez said. "So I think that in a very close race, that margin can sway an election."
Mi Familia Vota is working in Pima, Maricopa and Pinal counties to register voters. Goals include 5,000 new registered voters in Maricopa County, 1,750 in Pima County and 300 more in Pinal County, she said.
The organization is on track to meet those goals but still has some difficulty convincing people that their votes can make a difference.
"People will tell us, 'My vote doesn't count; it won't matter', so trying to get that education out that it does matter is very important," Nevarez Martinez said. "We explain to a person how the process actually works. A lot of times they say (they don't vote) because they don't understand the process. ... We've had quite a bit of success when we explain the process to them."
Registering voters is one issue, and getting them to the polls is another, she said. Her organization is working on followup with newly registered voters, including signing up more Latinos for voting by mail, which tends to increase turnout, Nevarez Martinez said.