Theres a possibility that many Latino voters will stay home and not vote at all during the November midterm elections, because theyve lost faith in the political system.
Thats the message that several experts expressed at a panel discussion about the Latino vote held Wednesday during the last day of the American Latino National Summit, which was organized by the New America Alliance Institute and held in San Antonio.
One of the things that were learning is that many Latinos dont believe in our political system anymore, Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) said during the panel discussion. They dont think candidates really are true to their promises when they campaign. They dont think their votes make a difference.
NALEO is projecting that more than 7.8 million Latino voters will head to the polls this November and will account for nearly 8 percent of the nations voters.
But Vargas and other Latino leaders pointed out during Wednesdays panel discussion that if more Latinos turned out to vote, those numbers would be higher.
Currently, 25 million Latinos are eligible to vote in the United States but less than half of them actually turn out to vote during elections. And an estimated 900,000 Latinos U.S. citizens turn 18 every year.
Vargas also insisted that more needed to be done to reengage Latino voters because otherwise we will continue to be underperforming to our potential. He said one way to do that is by telling Latinos how the political process really works and convincing them to trust the process.
We need to stop lying to our voters and telling them that if you vote this one time or if you vote for this one candidate or this one campaign, your life is going to change forever. Its not, he said. Its not about one election. Its about your constant engagement in the political process.
Sylvia Manzano, a senior analyst at Latino Decisions, pointed to an example of the influence Latinos can have if theyre engaged in the political process. She said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) voted last year to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that allows undocumented youth to stay and work. However, she said that because Coffman is in a competitive reelection race and represents a district with a large population of Latinos, he voted against repealing the DACA program last week.
Thats what influence is, Manzano said.
When asked what could drive Latinos to turn out to vote this year, the panelists gave different responses. Some said the frustration that Latino voters feel over the Republicans failure to pass an immigration reform bill in the House could fuel some Latinos to vote.
Meanwhile, Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said he thinks it all depends on how broadly the president is willing to go in providing some form of relief.
President Barack Obama is planning to take executive action on immigration by the end of the summer. While its unclear what those actions will look like, immigration advocates are pressuring the president to expand the DACA program to benefit more undocumented immigrants, including the parents of Dreamers.
Saenz indicated that bold actions by Obama could mobilize Latinos to go out to vote in the November elections. Manzano pointed to a recent survey by Latino Decisions that backs up that claim. The survey found that 57 percent of Latino voters would feel less enthusiastic about turning out at the midterm elections if Obama doesnt issue any executive action on immigration.
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