Ohio Latinos Get Registered To Vote

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Volunteers register Latino voters in the short North area of Columbus.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)
Volunteers register Latino voters in the short North area of Columbus.(Photo: Debbie Holmes)

Like other states, Ohio’s Hispanic population is growing and becoming a larger political force. But still many eligible Latino voters are not registered. For this election, Central Ohio groups are trying to change that.

On a Thursday night at a short North bar, community activists register Latino voters. The League of United Latin American Citizens or LULAC is trying to register 10,000 new Latino voters in Ohio; 2,000 here in Central Ohio. Maritza Motino directs the LULAC’s voter registration effort.

“We want to make sure that the Latino vote is counted, not only for the issues that pertain to Latinos, but also because we believe that the Latino vote is the important key issue to win this election,” says Motino.

Volunteers have held voter registration drives at churches, supermarkets and festivals around Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton and Cleveland.

31-year-old Derek Amaya will vote for the first time this year. He came to the United States from Honduras in 1986 and became a citizen 2 years ago.

“I’m not like into politics, but this year I’ve been involved a lot because my life and my family and others depend on who is going to be our president,” says Amaya.

22-year-old Karen Castro has voted since she was 18. She re-registered because she moved since the last election. Castro says Latinos need to understand the political issues.

“The issues are at stake the women’s rights, the dream act, and not even the federal issues also the local issues, redistricting reform all those issues are really important right now,” says Castro.

20-year-old Maria Guzman can’t vote because she’s not a citizen, although she has been in the U.S. for 15 years and graduated from high school. Guzman works to register other Latinos who are eligible to vote.

“I know a lot of people personally that are allowed to vote they’re old enough to vote and they just don’t do it and it makes me think how come they’re not doing it. How come they’re not getting involved,” says Guzman.

The groups are focusing on second generation Hispanic immigrants in their get-out-the-vote efforts. Attorney and Hispanic community activist Joe Mas is optimistic about the growing influence of young Latinos.

“Their children are now becoming of voting age. And we want to concentrate on them. And we’re actually finding a refreshing amount of leadership within that younger community,” Mas explains.

The U.S. Census counts more than 350,000 Latinos in Ohio, that’s about 3.2% of the state’s population. Much of the population growth has come in areas like Lorain, Toledo and parts of Cleveland.

Over the last decade, the number of eligible Latino voters has grown by 47%, but many have not registered.

Boosting that number is the goal of another organization called Ohio Voice. The Director of voter efforts, Nick Torres feels optimistic.

“I think what we’ll see when Election Day comes is that there is a higher number of Latinos who have registered to vote and turned out to vote,” says Torres.

The groups will continue their efforts until next Tuesday’s voter registration deadline. Then LULAC’s Maritza Motino’s focus will turn to getting those Hispanic voters to the polls.

“Many Latinos they think that because the President is in the White House he has to solve all their problems. They cannot just sit down in the house and wait you know, everything is going to be resolved. So they need to do something about it and the only way they can do it is voting. They need to vote,” says Motino.

And candidates realize they need to work harder to earn the Hispanic vote.

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