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The News Journal

Voter Drive Expands Into Del.: Campaign Targets Puerto Ricans


October 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 The News Journal. All rights reserved. 

A year-old national Hispanic voter registration drive, with a focus on Puerto Ricans, has been expanded into Delaware.

The goal of the nonpartisan campaign, called Que Nada Nos Detenga, which means "Let nothing stop us," is to register 1,200 new voters from across the state before the November 2004 elections.

The Puerto Rican government expects to spend $12 million to get Puerto Ricans who live in the United States registered to vote for the elections, Mari Carmen Aponte, executive director of the Puerto Rican Public Affairs Administration, said Tuesday. Half of that money already has been spent in other states. More than 119,000 voters have been registered so far.

Aponte was at the Latin American Community Center in Wilmington to announce the registration drive in Delaware. "We have the historic responsibility to make ourselves felt," she said.

The registration drive is being coordinated by the community center, the Delaware Latino Political Action Committee, a Latino lobbying group, and the Governor's Advisory Council on Hispanic Affairs, a body that advises the administration on how to improve the delivery of services to the state's Hispanic population.

"We've been here for years and we work and we pay our taxes. It's time to get representation," said Jose F. Echeverri, head of the political action committee.

Hispanics make up nearly 5 percent of Delaware's 783,600 residents, according to 2000 Census data. That is 10 times the percentage in the 1970 census. Nearly 10 percent of Wilmington's 72,664 residents are Hispanic, about a 3 percent increase from 1990.

About 3.4 million Puerto Ricans live in the United States, according to the Puerto Rican Public Affairs Administration. Half are of voting age. But only about 40 percent are registered, about half the percentage of registered voters in Puerto Rico.

Most of the registrations will be done by going door to door. The group registered about 400 voters at the Hispanic Festival in Wilmington last month.

Echeverri said registering new voters is not enough. He said it is important for Hispanics to actually vote. "A lot of us think one vote won't make a difference, and tend not to vote, but votes matter if we all come out together," he said.

Jacquelyn Maldonado, 20, of Wilmington, registered to vote at the community center Tuesday. She said all the older adults who live in her home are registered, but they do not vote.

"I'm going to vote, because I'm against the war in Iraq, but I feel like I don't have a right to protest about it until I vote," she said.

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