The Latino Action Network is a grassroots organization composed of individuals and organizations that are committed to engaging in collective action at the local, state and national levels in order to advance the equitable inclusion of the diverse Latino communities in all aspects of United States society.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016


By Nayeli Salazar de León (Nelli's Notes)

As we approach the General Election on November 8, many Latino Americans find ourselves anxiously reflecting on our families' migration stories, our personal ethics and morals, and our political values. For some, this will be the first time they are eligible to vote as naturalized citizens, and for others, it will be the first time they will exercise their right as citizens by casting a vote. "A projected 13 million Latino Americans are expected at the ballots this November, 450,000 of which are from New Jersey," confirms Roberto Frugone, Northeast Regional Director of the NALEO Educational Fund. Projected voter turnout is calculated by NALEO based on the overall number of eligible Latino voters (Potential #) and the average number of active voters from the last three election cycles (Actual #).

During a press conference in 2014 at Senator Menendez's Hispanic Heritage Celebration, Univision's Jorge Ramos, an acclaimed Mexican-born American news anchor, was asked "¿Cuál es tu mensaje a los Latinos de este país para que participen en la votación?" (What is your message to the Latinos of this country, so that they participate in the vote?) Ramos responded, "Nuestro gran reto es pasar de muchos números a poder político real. Somos muchos pero no tenemos el poder político que nos corresponde." (Our biggest challenge is to transition from strength in numbers to real political power. There are many of us, but we do not have the corresponding political power.) One important part of the political power to which Ramos refers is reflected in the overall number of eligible Latino voters (potential voters) and the percentage of those that actually cast a ballot (actual number). Figures 1 and 2 illustrate November's projected Latino voters as a percentage of potential voters, estimating just 48% participation nationally and 55% statewide in New Jersey. Acceptable? I will let you decide!

Nevertheless, as Figure 3 shows, this year's projected Latino turnout in New Jersey reflects an increase of 4% over the 2012 General Election, when 51% of all eligible Latino voters in New Jersey hit the polls. What is striking is not only the 9% who were registered and did not vote, but rather, the additional 39% who either had not registered or were marked as "no response". So, what are some of the causes linked to this lack of participation? According to Ray Carrera, an elected Commissioner for the Passaic Board of Education, there are three principal disabling factors: "1) History of political corruption in country of origin, 2) Need for democratic process and voter registration education, and 3) Trust that a collective vote can make difference." 

These challenges can be overcome with these consistent and positive community-driven messages: 1) We are American citizens; 2) We can trust the American democratic system; 3) We can safely seek guidance and resources on processes we may not understand; and 4) We can be confident in our socioeconomic contributions to this country. Through this messaging, we, as a collective, might begin to more effectively influence our country's politics and leadership. Regardless of what drives you to abstain from or participate in this year's election, one thing is certain: our vote is our voice, and to stay home is to forego your right to make that voice heard.

Note: Nayeli Salazar serves as Vice President of the Latino Action Network.  

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A special thanks to all my demographical contributors and editor and dear friend Michael Reimer

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