October 6, 2000


Will the Latino Vote Matter?

By Jerome DeHerrera

With less than six weeks remaining until November 7, many around the country are wondering if the Latino vote will play a crucial role or any role on Election Day. In short yes, the Latino vote can and will play a crucial role in deciding who our next President is and which party controls Congress.

The Presidential race is currently focused on a group of states aptly called Battleground States. These include: Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Nevada, Louisiana and Washington. It is in these states where the Latino vote will be decisive in determining our community's future.

Because these states are so critical, the two parties and their candidates for President have focused the majority of their effort to turning out their supporters and convincing those few remaining voters who are undecided in those states.

In the Hispanic community, polls show that with the exception of Cubans, the majority support Al Gore for President. As a result the Democratic Party has formed a Latino Coordinated Campaign whose sole focus is to turn out the usually low-turnout Hispanics which are considered part of the Democratic base.

Gilberto Ocañas, Deputy Director of the Democratic National Committee and the head of the Latino Coordinated Campaign says that "Latinos are playing a crucial role in these battleground states and Democrats are committed to turning out a record number of Latinos all over the country."

As a part of this coordinated effort, Latino leaders have visited these battleground states to energize and organize the Hispanic community.

Henry Cisneros, former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development has visited Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada and Illinois. Former Secretary of Energy and Transportation, Federico Peña has visited New Mexico. Delores Huerta has visited Washington and Florida. And Aida Alvarez, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration has visited Pennsylvania and Florida.

These targeted efforts are all an attempt to further improve upon the strong showing of Latinos during the 1996 Presidential Election. In 1996, 5 million Latinos voted, an increase of 17% from the previous presidential election in 1992.

Latino voters in this year's election should increase by even more. The Census Bureau predicts that there are now 21.3 million Hispanics eligible to vote. If the Hispanic turnout rate remains the same as in 1996, at least 5.6 million Latinos will vote, an increase of 12%.

If the polls are right, this presidential election will be one of the closest in recent history. A close race provides the perfect opportunity for the Hispanic community to play a decisive role.

For the Hispanic community to play a decisive role however, Latinos must turnout in record numbers in areas such as Detroit, Kansas City and other markets in the battle ground states.

If the Latino vote propels one of the candidates to victory in the battle ground states, the community will then have a larger say in the education and health care of our families. These issues are too important to the future of Hispanic families for the community to not vote on them.

Together as a community, Hispanics can make a difference in the future of our country and the future of our families. The size of that difference will depend on how many of us vote on Election Day.

Jerome writes a political column from Washington. Please send your comments to jeromedeherrera@yahoo.com.

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