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Latino Voter Registration Adds Millions To Rolls Queens Hispanic Voters Get The Facts On Election Issues How Voto Latino Got Things Rolling The Poll Tax, Updated
Latino Voter Registration Millions Added To Rolls
BY JOHN MORENO GONZALES. STAFF WRITER
October 7, 2004
With registration drives as diverse as the population they seek to empower, Latino groups across the nation reported high numbers of newly signed voters this week as state deadlines fast approached.
With New York's voter registration deadline on Friday and limits in key states like Florida and New Mexico passing earlier in the week, traditional drives and more controversial efforts may have resulted in more than 2 million Hispanic voters added to the rolls since the 2000 presidential election.
That would bring the number of Latino registered voters to nearly 9.5 million nationwide, and represent a 26.7 percent increase over the last four years. The rate meets ambitious goals set by national Hispanic groups.
"The Latino community has reached a critical mass," said Victor Landa, central regional director of the Southwest Voter Registration and Education Project, a national nonprofit based in San Antonio, Texas, that helped to set the benchmark of 2 million. "The politicians are taking note of us. But we've been here all along, little by little, increasing our numbers."
The boom has come through a variety of efforts, including a $12-million program of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration. It was criticized by some of the Commonwealth taxpayers who funded it as a misallocation of public money because it incidentally registered Hispanic voters from other backgrounds.
Still, the campaign reported 322,000 voters added to the rolls over the last three years, 80 percent of them Puerto Rican and many in New York and pivotal Florida.
Meanwhile, Landa's organization reported some 90,000 new Latino voters over it's yearlong effort in 16 states. And the Manhattan-based Hispanic Federation reported 12,000 voters signed in the tri-state area during a campaign that began only two months ago.
With dozens of other efforts not specific to the Hispanic community and registration through personal initiative in a tight presidential race, Hispanic leaders said the 2 million benchmark might be surpassed.
For instance, the battleground state of New Mexico reported nearly 1 million new registered voters for the 2004 ballot in an area where 40 percent of the electorate is Latino. America's Families United, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit that funded programs in 24 states, said it has registered some 2 million underrepresented voters of all ethnic backgrounds, estimating 700,000 of them to be Latino.
"Take our 700,000 and add that to the 300,000 by the PRFAA [Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration] and that's a million new voters alone," said Juan Marcos Vilar, executive director of America's Families.
The numbers are notable given the challenges in reaching Latinos eligible to vote. According to the Washington-based Pew Hispanic Center, a nonprofit think tank, 60 percent of the nation's 35 million Latinos are not eligible because they are either too young or not citizens. Among those qualified, a little more than half are either immigrants or their U.S.-born children.
Thus, organizers credited the registration increase to the work of bilingual foot soldiers, some paid, some volunteers, who went door-to-door or to public places to corral voters. Elena Parreno, who is paid $11 an hour by the Hispanic Federation, armed herself with a clipboard and sought late registrants at a Westbury shopping center on Tuesday. Days before, she had been in Corona, Long Beach and Hempstead.
"If they don't register, someone else will cast a vote for them," Parreno, 34, of Queens Village said, explaining that Latino concerns would be overshadowed if they don't engage in the political process.
Now that they've bolstered the rolls, the challenge for Latino groups is to harness that message for a strong Hispanic turnout. In November 2000, 79 percent of registered Hispanics reported voting, in comparison to 86 percent of non-Hispanic whites.
To reverse the trend, the groups plan to contact new and old registrants through mailings, telephone calls, and in some cases transport them to the polls.
"If you don't understand the process you're going to be intimidated," said Celeste Diaz Ferraro, director of communication for Puerto Rico's effort.
Monitors are also being set up to help overcome what the groups say are a lack of Spanish-language voting materials and interpreters at some voting spots. Locally, both the Nassau and Suffolk boards of elections continue to be monitored by the U.S. Justice Department for failing to provide enough bilingual voting materials and interpreters in 2002.
Latino advocacy groups said Tuesday that the Nassau board had made significant improvements but were less enthusiastic about the measures taken in Suffolk.
"Part of their agreement with the Department of Justice is to meet with community groups," said Patrick Young, chairman of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance. "They [Suffolk] have yet to meet with us."
Suffolk Board of Elections Senior Assistant Commissioner Anne McShane said last year that Spanish materials such as an incomprehensible voter information card written by a software program were an "abomination." McShane promised to correct such problems last year, but did not return calls for comment yesterday.
Parreno, the voter registration worker, explained that she - like many Hispanic immigrants - had taken years of English courses and would not rely on Spanish-language materials at the polls. She emigrated from Ecuador six years ago, and said she was taking her citizenship test in November, eager to become registered herself.
"I'll elect my government like I did my old country," she said. "Because I'm part of this country now."
Queens Hispanic Voters Get The Facts On Election Issues; AARP Holds Forum On Social Security, Healthcare & Rising Rx Costs
October 7, 2004
QUEENS, N.Y., Oct. 7 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Today, AARP continued its nation-wide voter outreach efforts by holding a forum for Hispanic voters in Queens. At the forum, a panel of AARP speakers explained the facts and answered questions on issues important to older voters, such as Social Security, affordable healthcare, and the rising cost of prescription drugs.
"The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials found that many Hispanics don't vote because they feel they don't know the issues well enough - AARP is here today to make sure people not only have their questions answered but they are also educated voters," said Carlos Rodriguez, a member of AARP New York's Executive Council. "Social Security, the high cost of prescription drugs, and affordable health and long-term care, these issues affect all of us, regardless of age or ethnicity."
The forum provided an in-depth look by AARP experts at election issues that greatly impact older voters such as: Social Security; high prescription drug costs; affordable health care; and long-term care options. Translators were on-site to ensure the message was understood and assist in answering questions. Additionally, AARP election and education materials were provided in both Spanish and English at the event.
"Some things are simply too important to get lost in the rhetoric of Presidential campaigns," said Lois Aronstein, AARP New York State Director. "Getting the facts out on issues important to older voters really helps all voters make the decision that's right for them."
Today's forum, held at the Pan American Hotel in Elmhurst from 10 a.m. to noon, drew over 100 attendees. The AARP Hispanic Voter Forums are not designed to influence or steer voters towards candidates, rather, the goal is to educate and inform voters as to where the candidates stand on issues critical to older voters. AARP's 2004 Presidential Voter Guides are available online at http:/ / www.aarp.org.
AARP has over 2.6 million members in New York State. AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization dedicated to making life better for people 50 and over. We provide information and resources; engage in legislative, regulatory and legal advocacy; assist members in serving their communities; and offer a wide range of unique benefits, special products, and services for our members. These include AARP The Magazine, published bimonthly; AARP Bulletin, our monthly newspaper; Segunda Juventud, our quarterly newspaper in Spanish; Live and Learn, our quarterly newsletter for National Retired Teachers Association members; and our Web site, http:// www.aarp.org. We have staffed offices in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Contact: David Irwin of AARP, 518-447-6723 or518-248-9167 (cell);Web: http://www.aarp.org
The Birth Of A Movement - How Voto Latino Got Things Rolling
MARIEL CRUZ and SANDRA GUZMAN
October 13, 2004
New York Post
STARTED by longtime pals, actress Rosario Dawson and activist Phil Coln, Voto Latino -the Latin response to the "Choose or Lose" campaign - began as an idea over lunch.
"Weve been thinking about doing something like this for a while and this election year, we knew we had to do something," says Coln. "We wanted to reach Latino youth and young adults, not based on their purchasing power but on the voting muscle."
In August, two months from the elections, the two decided that recording announcements encouraging voter registration and "get the vote" messages was the best way to go.
"We wanted to have an impact quickly, and television was the best way," says Coln.
The two drew a list of A-list Latino celebrities who have gained respect in the community. The rest is history... Tempos cover star, Zoe Saldana, flew into the Big Apple from Los Angeles on a quick break from filming to shoot her spot. She was the first big celebrity to agree to participate in the campaign and film a PSA.
"Shes awesome, tremendous ... from the moment we called Zoe to the time she was in the studio, it took five days," says Coln.
Viacoms six channels, including MTV - which partnered with Voto -picked up the $3 million production costs. Repblica, a local clothing company owned by Rafael Jimnez, donated the T-shirts and Zalia Cosmetics donated the make-up.
Since its August launch, the bipartisan organization registered a whopping 68,000 new Latino voters nationally.
Coln says that the unprecedented success was in large part due to Rosario Dawson, who invested countless time to get her colleagues to represent and raise awareness about the power of the vote. In addition to shooting her spot, Dawson has gone to Washington, D.C. on several lobbying missions.
"She threw in her soul -100 percent," Coln says of Dawson.
Another actor who represented big time, according to the organizers, was Queens native John Leguizamo. The funnyman interrupted a busy schedule - he was in Ireland shooting his next flick - and paid out of pocket for travel arrangements to make it to MTVs Time Square studios.
Leguizamos PSA holds the distinction of being the only one that will air on Comedy Central.
Reggaetn king Tego Calderns involvement is perhaps the campaigns most poignant, since - as he himself points out in his spot - as a resident of Puerto Rico, he does not have the right to vote in U.S. presidential elections.
Other Latinos who backed the effort were Fat Joe, Maxwell, Nina Sky and Wilmer Valderrama.
A special kudos goes out to Cameron Diaz, says Coln.
"She rearranged her schedule - from the moment we asked to the moment she made it to the studio - it took her just four days," says Coln of the Cuban actress.
"If anyone ever doubted how Latina Cameron is, this will put the doubters to rest," said Coln.
The Negative vs the Positive
For all her talk of community empowerment, Salma Hayek was a no-show. Too busy to shoot, she said no three times.
Thumbs-down to "Dark Angel" Jessica Alba, who was too busy filming to participate. Jessica, we realize you have three movies out next year, but dont you think voting is a better way to avenge injustice?
Eva Mendes was asked to participate twice. First she said she was shooting a movie with Will Smith, then she was on vacation. Eva, youre from Texas; we need your vote!
And finally, an unfortunate thumbs-down to Benicio Del Toro. Voto shifted filming from New York to Los Angeles in order to include him, but at the last minute a conflict of schedules prevented him from taking part in the campaign. We know you could do anything you want, Beno.
Roselyn Sanchez canceled the shoot last minute complaining of a migraine, but our spies saw her on the same evening at the Marc Anthony surprise birthday bash dancing up a storm with boyfriend Victor Manuelle.
And in an interesting turn, thumbs-up AND down to Jennifer Lopez, who didnt exactly film a spot for Voto Latino because of schedule constraints, but did allow them to air a pre-existing PSA she filmed for the League of Women Voters encouraging Latinas to vote.
For more information go to www.votolatino.org
-Salma Hayek -Rosario Dawson
The Poll Tax, Updated
When members of Mi Familia Vota, a Latino group, were registering voters recently on a Miami Beach sidewalk outside a building where new citizens were being sworn in, the Homeland Security Department ordered them to stop. The department gave all kinds of suspect reasons, which a federal court has since rejected, but it looked a lot as if someone at Homeland Security just didn't want thousands of new Latino voters on the Florida rolls.
The suppression of minority votes is alive and well in 2004, driven by the sharp partisan divide across the nation. Because many minority groups vote heavily Democratic, some Republicans view keeping them from registering and voting as a tactic for victory - one that has a long history in American politics. It is rarely talked about publicly, but John Pappageorge, a Republican state legislator from Michigan, recently broke the taboo. He was quoted in The Detroit Free Press as saying, "If we do not suppress the Detroit vote, we're going to have a tough time in this election cycle." Detroit's population is more than 80 percent black.
A recent report by the N.A.A.C.P. and People for the American Way includes page after page of examples of how this shabby business works. On Election Day, "ballot security" teams head for minority neighborhoods. They demand that voters produce identification when it is not required, take photographs of voters and single out immigrant voters for special scare tactics.
Two years ago in the governor's race in Maryland, leaflets appeared in Baltimore saying that before voters showed up at the polls, they had to pay off all parking tickets and overdue rent. The same year in Louisiana, fliers were distributed in African-American areas to tell voters, falsely, that if they did not want to vote on Election Day, they could still vote three days later.
What is particularly discouraging this year is the degree to which government officials have been involved in such efforts. In South Dakota's hard-fought statewide Congressional race, poll workers turned away Native American voters who could not provide photo identification, which many of them do not have, even though the law clearly says identification is not required. In one heavily Native American county, the top elections official, who is white, wrote out instructions saying no one could vote without photo identification. In Texas, a white district attorney threatened to prosecute students at Prairie View A&M, a large, predominantly African-American campus, if they registered to vote from the school, even though they are entitled to by law.
And in Florida, the secretary of state, Glenda Hood, had a list prepared to purge felons from the voter rolls; the list had many errors and would have turned away an untold number of qualified black voters. She abandoned the list only when news organizations sued to make it public, then pointed out its many inaccuracies.
In addition to these blatant forms of vote suppression, elections officials have been adopting policies that appear neutral on their face but often have the effect, and perhaps the intent, of disproportionately disenfranchising minorities. With huge registration drives under way among minorities in swing states, some secretaries of state have adopted bizarrely rigid rules for new registrations.
In Florida, Ms. Hood is insisting that thousands of registration forms on which a citizenship box is not checked are invalid, even though elsewhere on the forms each applicant has sworn that he or she is a citizen. In Ohio, Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell was insisting until recently that any registration form that came in on anything less than 80-pound paper stock had to be rejected. The continued disenfranchisement of convicted felons in many states also has an unmistakable racial component.
The suppression of minority votes has continued because it is perceived as a winning tactic, and because it is rarely punished. This needs to change.
Trying to prevent members of minorities from voting can be a violation of federal and state law. Election officials, poll watchers and voters should be on the lookout for vote suppression, and should report it. And prosecutors should look for criminal cases to pursue. A few high-profile prosecutions of political operatives, and even elections officials, would go a long way toward ending a disgraceful American tradition.