A new push for the Latino vote stirs fears of an uphill battle

LatinaLista — The Republican leadership is counting on the discontent of Latino voters to keep them from duplicating their landslide support of Obama in this year’s presidential election. Yet, a 2012 version of the national get-out-the-Latino-vote movement is gaining momentum and it’s being spearheaded by Latino Democrats.

RGV Equal Voice Network aims to improve Latino voter turnout in South Texas. (PHOTO: Rio Grande Guardian)

In 2008, the three big players encouraging Latinos to register and vote were Univision, the National Council of La Raza and Voto Latino. While each entity is involved in doing the same in this year’s election, their involvement isn’t seen as having the same impact as it did in 2008.

And that’s ok because a new crop of get-out-the-vote workers are stepping up to the plate.

In South Texas, grass roots organization Rio Grande Valley’s Equal Voice Network, representing over 35,000 people, is spreading the word about the potential influence of the Latino vote. Started in 2008 with funding from the Marguerite Casey Foundation, the RGV Equal Voice Network is made up of ten non-profits that work in the Valley’s colonias. They listen to the concerns of working families in the region and are encouraging everyone to register to vote.

“There is a huge shift going on across America that you do not see when you are this close to the action,” said Mike Seifert, network weaver for Equal Voice in the Valley. “It is not just the Rio Grande Valley. People talk about the sleeping Hispanic giant. We are coming into a very historic moment when it comes to Latino voting.”

It’s a sentiment that has been repeated ad nauseum ever since the US Census projected Latinos would be the “majority-minority” in the country, but the ironic thing is that it’s never been truer.

The hard part is convincing Latino voters that it’s true.

In a National Journal Political Insiders poll published today asking “Will Mitt Romney match the 38 percent of the vote that Republican congressional candidates won among Latinos in 2010?”, the results were not encouraging for the Romney camp.

Seventy-seven percent of the Democrats said he would do worse and only 40 percent of Republicans said he would do the same.

However, there is already anticipation within the Latino community about the dismal prospects of Latino voters showing up to vote in November. Again, in Texas, because Latino voter turnout wasn’t as impressive as it could have been back in 2008, the state’s Democrats created an unique program to reach young Latino voters.

“Last year the Texas Democratic Party launched an innovative Latino engagement program called the Promesa Project. Through this program, we’re asking young Latinos to give us their promise, or ‘Promesa,’ that they’ll talk to their family and friends about voting Democratic,” said Anthony Gutierrez in a column for the Rio Grande Guardian.

“That simple premise was the product of two recent findings. First, that today’s young Latinos are increasingly the trusted sources of political information in their families. Second, that the Internet has surpassed television as the main source of news for people under thirty.”

So who better to reach the faction of Latino voters who still hold “promesa” in strengthening the Latino vote than someone who is of their own age.

Today, television’s “Ugly Betty” actress America Ferrera officially joined her Hollywood peers (Eva Longoria, for one) in urging Latinos to vote by launching her own namesake campaign — America4America.

A project of VotoLatino, the America4America campaign isn’t anything different than any other get-out-the-vote campaign except that its main focus is young Latino voters — the main demographic who has always been the target of VotoLatino.

And like the Promesa Project, the Latino community is slowly understanding that if the Latino vote is going to mean anything now and in the future, it has to start with educating young Latino voters about the kind of power they can wield at the polls.

It’s a message that is too often met with cynicism and disillusionment from older Latino voters but there is still hope that the next generation isn’t so jaded as to not believe in that hope and that their vote does matter, even if things don’t go their way in Washington this time around.

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2 Comments

  1. jmtorr said:

    Thanks for highlighting the work of the RGV Equal Voice Network. Just to make it clear, the RGV EVN is not part of the Latino Democrat-led push mentioned above. We are non-partisan and in fact began our work as part of a national movement of families that saw that neither party was addressing the issues affecting our families. GOTV is a major component of our year round work to bring the voices of families to the national dialogue. The members of the RGV-EV Network seek to have the residents of Valley play an active role in the decisions that would impact the lives of our families at the local, state and national level.

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