03/11/10 a 11:59am por Maribel Hastings
LAS VEGAS—In a community center nestled in a Hispanic neighborhood, a long line of voters waits to vote early on Saturday. A series of interviews conducted by America’s Voice confirmed that it’s important to these voters to stop Senate Republican candidate and Tea Party favorite Sharron Angle, who they say has offended them and promotes an anti-Hispanic agenda. Angle is challenging incumbent Harry Reid, leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate.
On Sunday, during a neighborhood canvass by volunteers from The Hispanic Institute, which promotes early voting and voting on November 2nd, we ran into a Hispanic youth sending used goods from his patio. She won’t be voting.
“I don’t like the candidates and I don’t know why I should vote if nothing’s going to change. I’ve been out of work for two years,” she said. She’s part of the 15% of the population of Las Vegas, and 14% across Nevada, who are unemployed.
The task facing civic groups, interest groups, and politicians is to maintain the support of Hispanic voters and convince apathetic would-be nonvoters. They are literally sweeping the neighborhoods of Nevada with door-to-door visits and phone calls to guarantee that Latinos vote.
For John Tuman, associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, “in the Reid-Angle race, Latino participation is really critical.”
The race is tightened by the high unemployment rate and the wave of foreclosures plaguing the state.
Immigration always arose as a hot topic in interviews with voters, especially recently-naturalized citizens—who in 2008 in Nevada gave 76% of their support to Barack Obama, who promised them immigration reform.
Surprisingly, all of them said that “everything takes time.”
“We have to give the president time to get the country turned right-side-up again, because they left it face down. We have to give him a chance,” one voter said.
“The morale is low and I worry that a lot of Hispanics won’t turn out to vote, and it’s very sad,” another confessed.
Ironically, Angle and some of her allies seem to be mobilizing the Latino vote in Nevada these days, thanks to some of their actions.
“The Latino electorate is beginning to get energized and in my opinion, it’s a reflection of the negative publicity from Angle about undocumented workers and immigrants; her comments at the school (about how some Hispanics looked Asian to her); and, more recently, the backlash that the campaign telling Latinos not to vote has generated,” Tuman confirmed.
In 2004, Latinos constituted 10% of eligible voters in Nevada. In 2008, they were 13%; this year they have risen to 14%.
“Latino voters have the potential to tip the balance in the Reid-Angle race,” Tuman asserted.
Not so in the gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Sandoval and Democrat Rory Reid—Sandoval’s lead is too big.
“What we’ve seen up until now is that the numbers of Democrats and Republicans who have voted early are very similar. Latino participation will be important, but you can’t rule out the influence of independent voters,” Tuman added.
“There isn’t a huge enthusiasm gap because if there were, we’d see higher rates of Republicans participating in early voting. Independent support for Republicans isn’t near the levels it would have to be at to make a difference for Angle. If early-voting patterns continue, it’s possible that Reid will prevail in the election,” Tuman predicted.
The effort to mobilize the Latino vote in Nevada is considerable.
The Hispanic Institute is operating full steam ahead to promote early voting, which in Nevada ends on Friday, October 29th.
“In one year, the Institute registered 10,223 people here in Las Vegas alone, in Clark County,” said Artie Blanco, state director of the Hispanic Institute. Now they have to bring them out to vote.
In one of the neighborhoods visited by Hispanic Institute volunteers, one Latino, who was registered as a Republican, announced that he was voting for Reid. He also prefers Rory Reid over Sandoval “even though he’s Hispanic, because from what I’ve read and heard about him he isn’t very good for us.”
In another community center, volunteers made phone calls to potential voters.
One of the volunteers will be voting this year for the first time. “For us immigrants, the battle against those who don’t want us around doesn’t have to be with marches, it can be with votes—the most powerful weapon we have in our hands.”
Maribel Hastings is a senior advisor and analyst at America’s Voice.