LatinaLista — Today is the last day to register to vote in 19 states. During the rest of the week, another ten states will close registration for the Nov. 4 election.
From church pulpits and college and high school campuses to city fiestas, the effort to push Latinos to register to vote has been unprecedented in this election.
And Latinos, of all ages, understand the importance of this race. Yet, registering to vote is only half the battle â€” and it was the easy part.
From preliminary tallies of just a few of the many organizations that have been registering Latino voters, it's safe to say that the final tally is already way past 100,000. Just how high it goes is anyone's guess. The Ya es Hora, Ve y Vota! campaign, alone, is aiming for a million registrants.
But this phase of turning out the Latino vote has been easy because everything but signing the paper has been done for them. Registration forms have been brought to them. They've been shown which dotted line to sign. Some of them never even had to leave their homes to register and that's where the trouble may lie.
It's one thing to bring someone a piece of paper to sign; it's another for a person to physically leave their surroundings and find where they're supposed to vote. On top of that, if there are long lines or not enough ballots, slow machines or rude election officials, well, Latinos are not known for our patience.
As much money has been spent on registering voters, the second half of the process must include messages on the importance of actually voting. To some people, especially those who have never voted, registering is as good as casting a ballot.
Given the large numbers of voters expected this year, public service announcements should be made showing them what to expect when they arrive, what they need to bring with them, what the process will look like and an explanation of just who all those other people are on the ballot.
Also, people need to be informed of their rights at the poll sites. Ill-informed election workers and bi-partisan stunts will, unfortunately, try to cheat some people out of their votes.
It's never been just enough to register people and expect them to cast their ballots. It's a learning process in understanding that the real power doesn't come with registering but with filling out the official ballot â€” all on their own.
The first question in this voter registration campaign has been: Are you registered to vote?
The final question should be: How are you getting to the polls?