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Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Workers at Chicago's 25th Ward check in early voters.

Low interest may be holding down Latino voter turnout

by Brina Monterroza
Oct 25, 2012


Brina Monterroza/MEDILL

Fred Barr prepares to vote at Chicago's 25th Ward.

For politicians who court their vote, Latino voters are a key bloc. As Election Day looms, however, early-voting figures suggest Hispanics aren’t heading to the polls at the rate they did in 2008 – possibly because they’re less engaged with the issues this year.

As of Oct. 28, according to Cook County clerk data, the early-voter turnout in in Cicero and Berwyn areas was 2,117 –- less than half of the 5,253 early votes those districts recorded in the last presidential election. With only four days of early voting remaining, early votes from the Hispanic community could easily fall short of the 2008 election.

That matters, because in Chicago and nationwide, Latino voters tend to vote strongly Democratic. In addition, a strong Hispanic voter turnout gives Latino-oriented community groups get a stronger voice.

"If we don’t go out and vote, if we don’t participate, if we’re not involved in the election, we can’t expect the change overnight," said early voter Jadhira Sanchez, in an interview at the Chicago Board of Elections. The 22-year-old Little Village resident said she’s concerned that Latinos might not go out and vote in this year's election. Although some Latinos may feel their vote won't count, or doubt that either president will do anything for immigration reform, said Sanchez, they should still go out to vote.

In response to such concerns, many organizations have been working to get Latino voters out to vote.

“A lot of Latinos are discouraged because the President didn’t pass immigration reform,” observed 20-year-old Idalia Cervantes, who said she registered about 1,000 voters while working over the summer with the U.S. Hispanic Leadership Institute. In that work, she set up stands at different high schools and universities throughout Chicago, and went door-to-door through Chicago’s Hispanic neighborhoods. Cervantes said many of the Latinos she spoke to seemed disengaged with this year’s election.

Another organization that is working on getting Latinos and minorities to vote is the Illinois Coalition for Immigrants and Refugee Rights, which has worked since June to register Latinos and new immigrant voters. ICIRR will also be holding a Get Out the Vote Rally at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 30 at 300 S. Ashland Ave.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, a nonprofit organization that works to engage Latinos in the political system through public service or public office, predicts there will be a 26 percent increase in Latino voters cast nationwide, compared to the 2008 election.

“Latinos can make a big difference depending on where they vote,” said Chapa. Even if the Latino vote is low there will still be an increase compared to the 2008 election, said Jorge Chapa, professor of Sociology and Latino Studies at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He, too, predicts there will be an increase among Latino voters due to the relative youth of the population. As years go by, younger Latinos become eligible to vote, which increases the Latino voting population, he said.

Still, he said, “among students, there’s no excitement for this year’s election.”