April 20, 2012
By O. Ricardo Pimentel
When those without boots are told to pull themselves up by bootstraps, eyes naturally roll at the over-simplification. But there might be at least one instance when being this simplistic is warranted.
Voting. Votes can be bootstraps.
This applies to everyone, but the stakes are particularly high for those whose votes are part of the means to get out of holes deeper than others sit in. In Texas, that would be minorities generally, but, owing to the clout that burgeoning numbers bring, Latinos specifically.
Unfortunately, what was once said (wrongly, it turns out) of Brazil — “the country of the future and always will be” — might be correctly said about U.S. and Texas Latinos.
The electorate of the future and always will be.
The William C. Velasquez Institute, using 2010 Current Population Survey data, reported recently that Texas is among key states in which voter registration among Latinos dropped in 2010, down from 2008 levels.
This data said Latino voter registration dropped nationally by 626,000 — 107,000 of that in Texas. Nationally, that's a drop of 5 percent, in Texas 4.4 percent. Significant decline.
There are reasons. The recession that rocked the nation from 2008 to 2010 hit Latinos particularly hard.
Even so, the Latino vote is consequential and will become more so. There were 2.3 million Latinos registered to vote in Texas in 2010.
But consider: There were another 2.1 million eligible but not registered.
This last number comes from a story on the Hispanic News website. The piece was written last year by Matt Barreto, associate professor of political science at the University of Washington and co-founder of Latino Decisions, a research firm specializing on Latinos. He, too, relied on census data.
It's a given that citizenship issues and the relatively higher percentage of Latinos younger than 18 already erodes the number of the state's 9.45 million Latinos who will vote. But being eligible and not registering or voting are self-inflicted wounds.
The Southwest Voter Registration Education Project — its vice president, Lydia Camarillo tells me — will be trying to remedy this. The effort will be as strong as funding permits, she said. Unfortunately, the organization is looking at a tax bill of nearly $390,000 as it does this, as a column by Brian Chasnoff revealed Thursday.
This is not encouraging even if the organization says it has already registered 10,000 new voters in Bexar, Dallas and Tarrant counties, expects to register another 3,000 to 4,000 in targeted counties before the April 30 registration deadline for the Texas primary and will contact up to 1 million Latino voters in Texas on its drive to turn out 12 million Latino voters this year.
And I keep on thinking of that other number — 2.1 million, just in Texas. We will barely make a dent.
Others of course will also do some asking. The Texas Democratic Party has launched its Promesa Project, which will have Latino college students work to get their friends and family members to the polls. And the National Association of Latino Elected Officials has pledged to enlist Latinas to get all Latinos to vote.
Great. But I'm still not seeing the scale of effort needed here.
More is needed to reach those 2.1 million Latinos who are eligible to vote but are not registered, not to mention getting those registered out to vote.
But here's the conundrum for me. If you're Latino and someone asks you to register or to vote, this should not be a hard sell. In fact, though I understand the pervasive disgruntlement with government out there, it's a wonder you should have to be asked at all.
Source: San Antonio Express-News