Catherine Anaya

Make your blessing count

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This month, as we give thanks for life’s blessings, let’s not forget the blessing of being able to vote. And the best way to give thanks for that is to cast your ballot.

This November, many Arizonans are hoping to see one of the biggest turnouts of Latino voters ever.

We’ve recently witnessed a major push to get more Latinos not only registered to vote, but to also get to the polls and make that vote matter.

Much of the effort is fueled by heated emotion stemming from the passage of Senate Bill 1070, Arizona’s new immigration enforcement law, parts of which went into effect this past July.

Yet, despite the reported disenchantment over issues like immigration, education, the economy and unemployment, a recent Pew Hispanic Center study shows Hispanic registered voters appear to be less motivated than other voters to go to the polls.

One-third of all Latino registered voters say they’ve given this year’s election “quite a lot” of thought while 50 percent of all registered voters say the same.

“Too, I think that for every one Latino that is motivated to vote due to the S.B. 1070 aftermath, there is also one Latino voter that is frustrated and feels helpless,” says Christina Martinez-Romero, public affairs consultant. “The rhetoric has fatigued our community.”

The Pew study is certainly a dramatic shift from the estimated 80-percent Latino voter turnout we saw at the polls in 2008.

“In 2008 we had a hot Democratic ticket. This year, we don’t,” Martinez-Romero adds.  “I believe Latinos care more about education, employment and health care. We are not going to fix this lackadaisical problem in one election. There needs to be a long-term strategy. We have to give Latinos a reason to vote. They have to take ownership.”

Still, that same Pew study also found that in a year when support for Democratic candidates has eroded, support for the party among Latinos appears as strong as ever.  Two-thirds of Latino registered voters say they plan to support the Democratic candidate in their local congressional district, while just 22 percent support the Republican candidate.

ONE Arizona, an organization made up of 10 nonprofit groups throughout the state, has led an intense voter outreach campaign over the last few months, hoping to strengthen Latino political muscle in this month’s election and beyond.

And if the goal is to make a change beyond this election, then the key may be to empower each other. Encourage our Latino youth to stay in school and fight for their future and make sure our friends and loved ones who can vote, do vote.

“Remind Latinos, ‘tu voto es tu voz,’ period,” says Martinez-Romero. “We are fortunate to live in a democratic society. If we don’t like something, we need to speak up – challenge the status quo.”

Simply put, we need to make our blessing count – and vote!

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