LatinaLista — There’s a lot of nervousness about Latino voter turnout in November. From NCLR’s Janet Murguia’s recent comments at the organization’s annual national conference, held this year in Las Vegas, Nevada:
Not turning out to vote would “send a terrible message not only to the country but to ourselves that somehow we don’t respect ourselves enough to act. That is a terrible message that we’re sending to our young people. It’s a terrible message for us to send to those folks who are in the shadows and who are counting on us
to Vice President Biden’s fiery delivery at the same conference where he told the crowd of about 5,000 Latino community leaders, professionals and youth:
This is your moment. Don’t tell me you’re not ready-it’s much too important for you to remain silent; we need your help, and we need it now
it’s clear that the rumors of Latinos sitting out the presidential election is making people nervous. For others, the rumor is making them mad. One Rio Grande Valley politician, Agustin “Gus” Hernandez, Jr., has taken the unusual step of sending a 1400-word open letter to the voters of his district about the historical low voter participation in the region.
In part, his letter read:
How will we in Hidalgo County come to realize our potential in voting so that we may sway State Government and US Senator races? The answer is simple, by demanding more from our new candidates for office. We have moved away from grassroots, or block walking campaigns because money can simply buy votes. Since we have such a low voter turnout, candidates can use money to target a small, active amount of voters. These methods have become the norm for campaigning here. The problem is these methods target an extremely small part of our voting population. Since only a small group of people get personal attention from candidates, there is less accountability to us as a whole by those we elect to office. Since there is less accountability, the rate of disapproval of our government by the community as a whole goes up. Since we have high rates of disapproval of our government, we have a low voter turnout. Since we have a low voter turnout, our state government can afford to leave us…our children…our sick…our workforce…our Veterans behind. It is a vicious cycle that keeps us in Hidalgo County from receiving the opportunities our families deserve.
It is cycle of dissatisfaction that not only affects the Rio Grande Valley but Latinos nationwide. It’s a dissatisfaction that the GOP has hoped to turn into an opportunity — repeat, ad nauseam, just how much Obama hasn’t fulfilled his promise to Latinos. The end goal being that Latinos would be so disillusioned that they don’t turn out to vote — period. The GOP knows most Latinos won’t vote for Romney but if they can make Latinos feel Obama doesn’t deserve their vote then they win.
There are plenty of initiatives going around to make sure Latinos are registering to vote. Yet, there’s an extra step that is being missed by most of these groups — compelling Latino voters to vote.
In his open letter, Rio Grande politician Agustin “Gus” Hernandez, Jr. reveals why those who have supported him in the past turned up at the polls at all — because he personally stood on their doorsteps and asked them to.
It’s a concept that may seem old-schoool, especially in this cyber-age, where emails and text messaging have been assumed to be the preferred method of communication. But in an election that is basically starting from scratch to energize Latino voters, it’s apparent that both politicians will have to campaign like no one knows them — and for many Latino voters that’s the simple truth.