Getting out the Latino vote

By Rinku Sen Aug 28, 2008

Yesterday, I was all about the Latinos. First, I interviewed people about the Latino vote and what the Obama campaign is doing to get it. Latinos at the convention are enthusiastic about their candidate (“Obamanos”), but there is some sense that Obama hasn’t done enough to disrupt the Clinton brand – the idea that the Clintons were the only ones in the power structure who could get anything done. One staffer for the National Latino Committee, who asked to remain anonymous, said that the campaign had been “criminally negligent with regard to the Latino vote.” It was time for less fundraising, this staffer said, and more organizing. If Obama was nationally known in contrast to the Clintons, it was on the internet. Great for fundraising, and also great at “precluding a lot of Latinos.” There’s no question that Latinos are a sizable, and growing, voting block. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials released a report on the Latino electorate: 28% growth in actual voters between 2000 and 2004, as opposed to 13% among non-Latino voters, and somewhere between 9 to 15 % of expected voters in key states like Florida, New Jersey, California, Texas and New York (all the big immigration destination states). NALEO also just finished a series of town hall meetings around the country. Executive Director Arturo Vargas ran down the primary issues that emerged yesterday: the economy, the war in Iraq, and immigration. Town hall attendees weren’t so concerned with the technicalities of immigration policy as with the tone of the immigration debate. “They don’t like how it’s being used to divide Americans and it’s inspiring Latinos to get naturalized, registered and to vote,” said Vargas. But, as Roberto Lovato reported in the New America Media, it’s unlikely that the Dems are going to take up the elements of immigration policy that most vilify and criminalize immigrants: deportation raids and detention. They’ll move a basic legalization, but take no action on the larger system. Temo Figueroa, the campaign’s Latino vote director, ran down the Democratic turnout program – hire actual Latinos to work the streets, use technology to get to the huge numbers of Latinos under 30 (remember “today we march, tomorrow we vote” from 2006?), and go everywhere – even to the Latino community in Alaska, which isn’t huge, but could determine results ofs a tight race. The Latino groups have set up a voter hotline 888-VEY-VOTA to receive complaints on and before election day, with an army of lawyers standing by.