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Nation's Largest Voter Registration Campaign Hits 165,000 Milestone Mark
Non-Partisan Effort Will Activate 300,000 New Voters For 2004 Elections; Political Operatives Astounded That Campaign Targeting Hispanics Becomes Nation's Largest Campaign
September 4, 2003
WASHINGTON -- Today's first installment in a series of presidential candidate debates is being held in Albuquerque, New Mexico sponsored by Governor Bill Richardson, one of the nation's most prominent Hispanic politicians. In California, Lieutenant Governor Cruz Bustamante appears to be the frontrunner to replace current Governor Gray Davis should he be recalled at the polls. And in Lawrence, Massachusetts, this fall's elections could see a Hispanic majority city council elected for the first time in any city on the East Coast. The buzz across the nation is that Hispanic voters will be pivotal in the outcomes of upcoming elections -- and that the face of political outreach has changed forever.
The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, headed by executive director Mari Carmen Aponte, is spearheading the nation's largest voter education and registration campaign which has registered 165,000 new voters in 12 states since the campaign's inception. Aponte, whom NCLR honored with the nation's most prestigious award for service to the Hispanic community, credits strategic research and targeting effective grassroots outreach and culturally relevant communications efforts with the wildly successful results.
"This is our time," Aponte said. "Latinos are realizing that not only does every vote count, but that together we can now insist on respect for the issues that impact us as a community. Media pundits call Hispanics the swing vote -- and I'm certain we'll see a lot of swinging in upcoming elections as candidates wake up to the need for real communication with their Hispanic constituencies."
PRFAA's voter education and registration effort, titled "Que Nada Nos Detenga! (Let Nothing Stop Us!), was launched July 15, 2002 by Puerto Rico Governor Sila M. Calderon and became the nation's largest Hispanic voter registration effort within six months. Operating initially in urban areas of New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, and Florida, the campaign has now expanded its outreach to include Delaware, Rhode Island, Indiana and Wisconsin while also moving into more suburban and rural areas of upstate New York, western Massachusetts and central and western Florida. The campaign, which utilizes both English and Spanish materials, is budgeted to spend $12 million between 2002 and 2004 on grassroots and communications efforts to activate 300,000 new Puerto Rican and Hispanic voters.
"This is purely about empowerment," continued Aponte. "When Puerto Ricans and Hispanics realize our votes count -- that the path to a better future begins at the voting booth -- we realize that we now have the power to control our own destiny and direct the decisions that impact our families and community. This is about staking our claim and taking control of our own future."
For additional voter registration and turnout statistics, or to arrange interviews with Mari Carmen Aponte, please contact Celeste Diaz Ferraro at 202-271-7263.