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Latino groups combine to register 200,000 new voters

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 Click on photo to enlarge or download: Brent A. Wilkes, right, of LULAC, and Jose Calderon, left, of the Hispanic Federation are working with Hector Sanchez, of LACLAA, to launch Movimiento Hispano, a website dedicated to increase Latino Voter turnout. SHFWire photo by Salvador GuerreroClick on photo to enlarge or download: Brent A. Wilkes, right, of LULAC, and Jose Calderon, left, of the Hispanic Federation are working with Hector Sanchez, of LACLAA, to launch Movimiento Hispano, a website dedicated to increase Latino Voter turnout. SHFWire photo by Salvador GuerreroWASHINGTON – A coalition of three Latino organizations is hoping to register up to 200,000 new voters before the November elections.

The Hispanic Federation, the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the League of United American Citizens announced a joint effort Thursday called Latinos for Democracy, which focuses on voting in the Latino community. The group will coordinate its efforts in 24 states and use the Movimiento Hispano project’s website to help Latinos stay informed on the latest political news.

This is not the first time these groups have worked as a collective. They have come together for the last three presidential elections, partnered in two projects called Latinos for a Secure Retirement and Latinos United for Healthcare.

“What we’re doing is mobilizing the network in an unprecedented effort to make sure we are registering our community and engaging them in the democratic process,” Brent Wilkes, executive director for LULAC, said. “It is about voter protection. We have to make sure our folks are ready for that and are prepared to engage in the democratic process.” 

The website has many resources, including a link to help Latinos register to vote and find their polling places.

More than 50 million Latinos live in the U.S. Almost half of them are eligible to vote, which has sparked a race among presidential hopefuls to gain the trust of the minority vote.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials estimates 12.2 million Latinos will vote this year, up more than 25 percent from 2008. 

“We know and we can see in the debates the Republican and Democrats fighting for the Latino vote,” Hector Sanchez, executive director of LCLAA, said. “They are not doing what needs to happen to represent the Latino agenda. … Our vote is growing and becoming very strategic.”

Sanchez said 91 percent of Latino voters are concentrated in 16 electoral states that will cast 300 of the 538 total electoral votes.

José Calderon, senior vice president of the Hispanic Federation, said to get voters to show up at the polls and make an informed vote, it will take self-assurance in the Latino community.

“We are trusted organizations. The Federation serves over 2 million Latinos in the Northeast,” Calderon said. “When we tell them they need to go out and vote because it is important for their family and community, they do it.”

Calderon said the joint effort is a grassroots movement that hopes to register 200,000 voters and mobilize 100,000 volunteers at the polls this November.

He said the effort does not stop this year. The goal is not to just inform Latinos about the upcoming elections, but to create a movement that will last, which means reaching future voters.

“There is a social media component to this. We are really going to use Facebook, Twitter and other vehicles to get the word out,” Calderon said. “We are engaging in our high schools and in colleges. Getting the Latino fraternities and sororities to get involved is really important.”

Reach reporter Salvador Guerrero at guerreros@shns.com or 202-326-9867. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.

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