by Natasha Khan - Oct. 22, 2012 09:32 PM
Groups out to boost voting by Latinos in Arizona are combining classic get-out-the-vote tactics with a push for casting early ballots.
"We are definitely stressing people to register for the early ballot because that increases their chances of coming out," said Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a youth-led group that promotes education and immigrant rights.
With Arizona's registration deadline having passed, leaders say the next step in addressing traditionally low voter turnout among Latinos is getting people to cast ballots.
That's where early voting comes in.
Groups are touting the convenience of mail-in ballots, including not having to go to polling places and vote around work schedules.
"They encounter less obstacles to actually exercise that right to vote," Matuz said.
Ignacio Menchaca, a 66-year-old retired truck driver who lives in Phoenix, signed up to vote recently at a registration drive run by the Adios Arpaio campaign, a coalition of two Latino advocacy groups that reported registering over 30,000 new Latino voters.
Menchaca said he plans to vote by mail because it's easier.
Joe Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy, said there's been a "big push" from Latino advocacy groups for mail-in ballots that are "a surefire way to cast a ballot regardless of location, vocation or situation come Election Day."
Mi Familia Vota, a national non-partisan, non-profit group that advocates for Latinos, has more than 100 volunteers in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties working to get Latinos on early-voting lists and call them to make sure they send in their early ballots, said Francisco Heredia, the group's state director.
Garcia, of the Morrison Institute, said Latino voter turnout has been low historically for many reasons.
"Everything from lack of transportation, overriding family commitments and work restrictions," Garcia said. "A large percentage of Latinos are blue-collar workers whose long hours and long distances from polling places often prevented them from voting on a Tuesday."
Advocacy group leaders said they were able to register thousands of new Latino voters this election cycle mainly because of unhappiness with Arizona's anti-immigration laws.
Mi Familia Vota estimated a 41 percent increase in registered Latino voters in Arizona, or about 169,000 voters, according to Heredia.
Garcia said a number of factors, including the passage of Senate Bill 1070 and the first-ever Hispanic candidate for U.S. Senate in Arizona, Richard Carmona, could help energize Latinos to vote in higher numbers.
By the numbers
There were more than 21 million Hispanics of voting age in 2010, according to the U.S. census.
They comprised roughly 10 percent of all eligible voters and 8 percent of registered voters in the U.S.
Among eligible Hispanics in 2010, 6.3 million said they were not registered to vote, and 10.8 million -- about half of those of voting age -- said they did not vote, according to a report by the Advancement Project.
Nationwide, Latinos favored Democrats over Republicans by nearly 2-1 in the 2010 elections, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.