*What’s at the root of the growing influence of Latino voters, in Arizona and across the country? Mathematics.
First, Latinos make up the largest and fastest growing minority in the U.S. and in Arizona.
And second, an increasing number of Latino groups are educating and encouraging voters. In the second part of our series “Emerging Voices: The Latino Vote”, Nancy Montoya looks at what Latino groups are doing to get out the vote.*
“We came together to say, ‘ya basta,’” said Hector Sanchez, head of the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda. “Ya basta” means “enough”. He’s saying it to both major political parties.
The effort started in 1991 with a handful of Latino civil rights organizations. The aim was to create a unified voice for the U.S. Latino community amid turbulent politics.
“On the one hand we have anti-immigrant pieces of legislation all over the nation by the Republicans that are really affecting the quality of life of the Latino community,” Sanchez said. “On the other hand, we have an obsession with deportations by the president that is also affecting the quality of life of the Latino community.”
National Hispanic Leadership Agenda
There are members of the Mexican American, Puerto Rican, Cuban and other Latino communities. The coalition includes the National Hispanic Bar Association, the National Hispanic Medical Association, civil rights and policy organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, known as LULAC and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
“We need to make sure that the political power of Latinos is growing and increasing and being heard all around the country,” LULAC Executive Director Brent Wilkes said.
His organization has 1,000 chapters around the country, including 20 in Arizona. Wilkes said volunteers from those chapters will be working to get out the Latino vote this year. They tap into a wide range of issues that include, but extend well beyond, immigration.
League of United Latin American Citizens
“If you care about education, if you care about health care, if you care about job opportunities, even business opportunities – you need to make sure your voice is heard,” Wilkes said.
In Arizona that voice– the Latino voice– is growing louder.
“We want to make this a record year for getting out the Hispanic vote,” said Richard Estrada, the Arizona President of LULAC. “ We have worked hard to register Arizona Latinos. Now we have to make sure they don’t sit home on Election Day.”
He says hundreds of volunteers will go door-to-door statewide to register and remind Latinos to vote.
The National Association of Latino Elected Officials, known as NALEO, calls this the year Latinos in Arizona and across the country turn out in unprecedented numbers. NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas said the nonpartisan group has taken the lead by setting up a national toll free number - 888-839-8682 - for voter information.
“We want to make sure that Latinos have all the information at their disposal to make sure that they know where to register to vote, know where their polling place is located and most importantly that they know their rights,” Vargas said.
National Association of Latino Elected Officials
Staffers on the other end of the toll-free number will also be able to troubleshoot on the big day.
“We will have, on election day, attorneys at the ready to make sure that we can take immediate action to make sure nobody is turned away at election day,” Vargas said.
“Unity really helps create the strength we need to do something that is not an easy task,” Wilkes said. “And I can tell you, the party that loses the Latino vote ceases to be a political party of the future.”
Arturo Vargas from NALEO issues a warning shared by all of the organizations in the coalition.
“You cannot take the Latino vote for granted,” Vargas said. “You can’t assume you have it in your back pocket. You can’t assume it is unattainable. You have to campaign for the Latino vote.”