Will Latinos vote en masse in Tuesday’s midterm election or are they so disillusioned by unfulfilled promises and empty rhetoric they will simply stay home instead of exercising their right?
The question is relevant because, come Election Day, their votes could decide the outcome of several key races.
A recent national poll from the Pew Research Center found that a sizable majority of Latinos support the Democrats – also the case in New York – but they are unlikely to turn out in huge numbers on Tuesday.
However, despite the fact that midterm elections historically attract fewer voters than presidential contests, local community groups disagree with the Pew finding and cite a new poll supporting their contention.
Latino Decisions, a research firm, found that the level of enthusiasm among Hispanic voters has risen from 40% to 60% in the past month, which means that, like it or not, Latinos are poised to play a significant electoral role.
"Community organizations are working hard to make sure Latinos understand why this election is important to them," said Valeria Trevers, executive director of the New Immigrant Community Empowerment (NICE), a Jackson Heights-based, nonpartisan group.
Last Thursday, NICE and eight other groups, including Alianza Ecuatoriana, Desis Rising Up and Moving, the New York Immigration Coalition, and the Queens Community House gathered at the Jewish Center of Jackson Heights.
Dubbed the Northwest Queens Coalition of Immigrant Organizations, the groups held a forum aimed at creating a pro-immigrant platform for the 39th Assembly District race, in which Democrat José Moya is vying for the seat José Peralta vacated with his election to the state Senate. Judging by the forum attendance, Latino participation in the upcoming election should be substantial.
"We feel it is crucial that the candidate elected is someone who understands our community needs and is willing to work with our communities," said the coalition in a statement.
Those needs – jobs, housing and education – Trevers said, are very much the same issues the rest of the electorate care about. In addition, Latinos are also concerned about Secure Communities," she added.
Secure Communities, a federal program to check the fingerprints of everyone arrested against immigration records, has been responsible for deporting hundreds of innocent people and the cruel separation of many immigrant families. Not surprisingly, Latinos despise it.
"[Latino] votes will help decide the outcomes in many contests, and elevate the issues that matter to Latino families: immigration reform, affordable housing, access to education and good schools, and better protections for workers and small businesses," said a statement by Make the Road NY urging Hispanics to volunteer for Vote por Respeto (Vote for Respect), a campaign to get out the immigrant vote.
"Our goal is to knock on 7,000 doors, energize people and educate them about the importance of this election for their lives," said Ana María Archila, the group’s co-executive director.
Archila says the campaign’s impact cannot be discounted. "Seven thousand people may not be a huge number, but in the neighborhoods we work in – Bushwick, Jackson Heights, etc. – elections for the Senate and the Assembly are decided by 2,000 or 3,000 votes, and we can make a difference."
Yes, we can – Sí se puede. But only if enough Latinos get up and vote on Election Day. Let’s do it.