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PR Newswire (U.S.)
Governor Calderon Urges Ohio's Hispanic Community To Register To Vote As Part Of The Nation's Largest Non-Partisan Hispanic Voter Registration Campaign
Mayor Campbell Adds Her Voice To The Non-Partisan Campaign
Puerto Rican Vote Will Be Pivotal In Key Battleground States Including Ohio; Historic Effort Has Registered 250,000 Voters Nationwide; Increased First-Time Voter Participation By 70 Percent In The 2002 General Election
June 10, 2004
CLEVELAND, June 10 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Cleveland's Puerto Rican community gathered on the steps of City Hall waving Puerto Rican flags and cheering as Sila M. Calderon, Governor of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, urged Cleveland's Hispanic community to register, vote and become more engaged in their local government. Calderon also announced a new milestone for what has become the nation's largest Hispanic voter education, registration and mobilization campaign. Mayor Jane Campbell joined Calderon for the event.
"I am proud to announce that our non-partisan voter registration effort has registered 250,000 new voters nationwide including 5,500 here in Ohio and more than 31,500 in the greater Midwest," said Governor Calderon. "We are on target to register 300,000 voters by the November 2004 elections and by registering to vote, you are on target to make a difference in the upcoming elections."
As Republicans and Democrats alike target the ever-growing Hispanic vote, Puerto Ricans have the opportunity to play a dramatic role in this year's presidential, state and local elections. Many Puerto Rican communities are located in politically strategic areas and, because of the Puerto Rican electorate's largely politically undecided stance, are expected to cast deciding votes in the upcoming elections. In the 1992 Presidential election, 100 electoral votes were decided by a difference of less than two percent of the votes; Puerto Ricans make up more than two percent of the population in as many as seven states nationwide.
"Many Puerto Rican communities represent swing votes that could potentially decide elections across the nation. It is essential that we begin to recognize the value of this resource and utilize it to make a difference," Calderon added.
According to the 2000 census, the mainland Puerto Rican population has grown to 3.4 million, a 28.5 percent jump in the last ten years alone. In addition, Puerto Ricans now reside in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia.
"This is all about enfranchising people to effect change throughout the nation," she said.
Calderon launched the nationwide, non-partisan voter registration and education program "¡Que Nada Nos Detenga!" ("Let Nothing Stop Us!") in July 2002 to empower Puerto Ricans and Hispanics across the nation by encouraging them to become civically engaged in their own communities. The effort specifically targets the 642,000 unregistered Puerto Ricans living in the mainland United States. Ohio is home to 217,000 Hispanics, 66,269 of whom are Puerto Rican.
"This campaign is about solidarity, pride and empowerment," said Calderon. "We are mobilizing Puerto Ricans and raising awareness of their potential impact on elections in Ohio, as well as issues that affect their communities and the Island. All citizens play an important role in the political process and should have the information and the opportunities to help control how decisions are made that affect their daily lives."
Voter registration and participation rates on the Island are 95 percent and 86 percent respectively, higher than any state in the nation. But when Puerto Ricans move to the mainland, both registration and participation rates drop to about 40 percent.
"Research conducted by the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) and the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund (PRLDEF) showed there are a number of factors accounting for this stunning drop," said Mari Carmen Aponte, executive director of PRFAA, the Governor's mainland office. "In some cases there are physical barriers such as language fluency, comparative complexity of the process or even outright discrimination. Often there are psychological barriers such as embarrassment, fear or lack of confidence about participating, as well as cynicism and a sense that voting does not make an impact on people's daily lives."
The voter registration campaign is helping to address the significant voting disparity and encourage the 1.7 million able Puerto Rican voters in the mainland United States to become engaged in the civic process. By focusing on the entire Puerto Rican community nationwide, Governor Calderon's Administration hopes to arouse Puerto Rican interests and build political leverage from increased voter participation. By providing Puerto Ricans and Hispanics with comprehensive information and educational assistance, the campaign enables voters to make the connection between voting and benefits in their communities, thus encouraging them to take action and actively participate in the public process.
The campaign's success can be seen in exit poll data made available following the 2002 elections where polls showed a 70 percent increase in turnout among first-time Puerto Rican voters. In addition, 87 percent of Puerto Ricans surveyed in 2002 said they were aware of the voter registration campaign and 54 percent said they were motivated to vote because the campaign drew a clear link between voting and benefits for their community. Since the campaign's launch in July 2002, major voter registration rally events have been held in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Pennsylvania -- all states with large Puerto Rican populations.
The campaign theme, "¡Que Nada Nos Detenga!," speaks directly to the Puerto Rican spirit of determination and hope for a better future and encourages increased participation in the democratic process, thereby positively impacting communities both on the mainland United States and on the Island. Governor Calderon's campaign combines grass-roots community outreach efforts with an aggressive, multi-faceted communications campaign reaching Puerto Rican neighborhoods across the nation.
Aponte discussed the progress of the aggressive program. "Our regional offices have worked hard to reach out to unregistered Puerto Ricans by forming partnerships with small businesses and community-based organizations. Here in Ohio our voter registration staff has built strong relationships at the local level," she said.
The Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, which serves as the mainland offices of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, operates 12 regional community outreach offices in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Hartford, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, and Springfield, Mass. and is headquartered in Washington, D.C.
For more information, please visit http://www.prfaa.com/
CONTACT: Celeste Diaz Ferraro, +1-202-271-7263, firstname.lastname@example.org, orMaite Rivera, +1-202-271-7272, email@example.com, both of Puerto Rico FederalAffairs Administration