“I Voted” stickers are seen during the first day of early voting in Nevada at the East Las Vegas Community Center polling station October 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. ( Photo by David Becker/Getty Images)

Latino groups achieve higher voter turnout, rallying around immigration reform

For months and months Latinos have been hearing about the importance of their vote from Latino organizations as well as the media.   So as we approach the “recta final,” or the final sprint of Election 2012, has this message been heeded?

The answer is yes, especially in looking at early voting, says Latino Decisions political scientist Sylvia Manzano.  She estimates between 16 and 20 percent of Latinos will have voted early by the beginning of next week, a pretty significant number, and it is not just in swing states.  “In Texas — which is not one of the states in play — I am seeing counties which are 80 to 90 percent Latino, where early voting is up,” says Manzano. “It’s a great convenience for people, and it makes sense if you already know who you are voting for, which is the case for most Latinos,” she says, explaining the polls have consistently shown there are not that many undecided Hispanic voters.

Manzano points out Latino early voting and increased turnout is also due in large part to Latino non-partisan groups and organizations, such as Ya Es Hora, Mi Familia Vota, Voto Latino, NALEO and NCLR.  “I think we have to give credit to all those non-partisan organizations who have done a tremendous job with voter registration, as well as getting Latino enthusiasm up,” says Manzano.

“Even in states like California, these groups have convinced Latinos that even if they might not impact the presidential race, their vote has implications for local and state politics,” says Manzano.  “If we really want to invest in Latinos’ capacity to be a strong voice in American electoral politics, it means reaching out to Latinos everywhere, not just in swing states,” she adds.  Manzano says we can draw a lesson from senior citizens; every politician wants to court them and both parties pledge to preserve benefits for senior citizens because they are a consistent, strong voting block.

“When it comes to the Latino vote, I am certain we will do as well, if not better than in 2008,” says Rudy Lopez, National Political Director of the Campaign for Community Change.  Lopez says his organization, working in conjunction with Latino groups such as Voto Latino, NCLR and Mi Familia Vota, among others, have registered about 300 thousand Latinos in the last few months. Lopez says there is a reason why Hispanics are responding to voting drives and outreach from local community groups.

“If they say all politics is local, then I would add all local politics are personal,” says Lopez. “Everyone knows someone personally affected by something worth voting for, whether it’s about the economy and jobs, education for their children, or immigration.”

Of all the topics, Lopez says, “the galvanizing number one connective tissue to this voter mobilization is immigration reform.” Lopez cites the work his organization has done with community groups such as CHIRLA in Los Angeles, or Arizona’s Promise Arizona, as well as the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, the Florida Immigration Coalition, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and Voces de la Frontera in Wisconsin.

“Most Latinos know someone who has been impacted over immigration policies,” says Lopez, “and we see this election a push for sending a statement our community needs comprehensive immigration reform in 2013,” he says.

Manzano says this voter mobilization among Latinos in different states is effective – and necessary.

“Politicians in an election cycle are thinking short-term; they want to win the particular election,” says Manzano. “But we constituents, however, are invested in the long game – what happens to me, my children – beyond one particular election,” Manzano explains.  The goal is to get more Latinos involved in the electoral process, for the long haul.

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