Updated 03:21 PM EDT, Tue, Sep 30, 2014
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The National Council of La Raza, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund launch "Mobilize to Vote 2014"

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Casting a Vote
A voter goes to the ballot box in 2007 elections. Latinos will be urged to register as voters with a new campaign that is now beginning. (Photo : Rama)

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund (MFVED) have launched the initial phase of their "Mobilize to Vote 2014" campaign, a joint effort to register over one-quarter of a million new Hispanic voters by the midterm elections.

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"The non-partisan campaign is designed to reach Latinos in areas of the country where their population growth has been significant, yet the greatest gaps exist between potential voters and actual voters," the NCLR said in a press release "While Latinos have increased their electoral participation in the last decade, today there are almost as many eligible but inactive Latino voters (11.1 million) as active Latino voters (12.2 million).

"To help close this gap, NCLR and MFV Ed Fund are implementing a large-scale register-by-mail program targeting eligible Latino voters in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah, with plans under development to expand registration efforts to Florida and California."

This effort is especially enthusiastic following the 2014 elections, when the Latino vote stood out as one of the main demographic groups that signaled a shift in U.S. political power. Polls indicated it was the decisive voting group that moved the presidential election in favor of the Democratic Party.

"Latinos have had an indelible impact on the nation's political landscape in recent elections, and their untapped potential may exert even greater influence," said Janet Murguia, President and CEO of NCLR. "To fully leverage this potential, we must push to register as many eligible Latino voters as possible, particularly as we approach a midterm election that will no doubt have an impact on how issues important to our community-such as immigration reform-are addressed moving forward."

Murguia points to the sheer numbers, indicating that while Latinos have made their voice heard, that voice could be a lot louder.

"Approximately 8.6 million Latinos in the United States are eligible to vote, but have not yet registered; every month, nearly 64,000 young Latino citizens turn 18 and become newly eligible," the press release says. "That's a treasure trove of potential voters whom are often not reached by traditional party or state outreach efforts.

"The mailings will target three pools of potential registrants-newly eligible 18 year olds, registered voters who have moved and need to re-register, and the broader Hispanic voting-age population. Voter registration materials will land in mailboxes as early as this month, again in May, and later in August, reaching more than 2.5 million potential new Hispanic registrants in the Southwest."

It is also in the Southwest where Latino voters could make the biggest impact. Democrats in Texas are anxiously waiting to see if a significant turnout in the Hispanic vote could turn the red tide in the electorally-powerful State of Texas. Many number-crunchers believe that a heavy turnout by Hispanic voters would be more than enough to turn Texas blue, and elect gubernatorial underdog Wendy Davis and Latina Lt. Governor Leticia Van de Putte.

But Texas is also home to Latino Republicans as well. It is the state that produced Tea Party hero Ted Cruz. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, while not Hispanic, is a fluent Spanish-speaker and spent a significant amount of time in Latin America, working in Bolivia. With its proximity to Mexico and cross-border trade, politically- and business-savvy Texans have been familiar with the Latin American world for some time. And while not getting the press of better-financed candidates, Texas also boasts a Hispanic woman running for the governor's office in Miriam Martinez.

But the voter registration proponents don't mention one side of the other, saying only that Hispanics need to be louder in the political scene.

"Mi Familia Vota Education Fund works to close the Latino civic participation gap from citizenship to voter registration to voter turnout, engaging voters year-round." said Ben Monterroso, Executive Director of Mi Familia Vota Education Fund. "Elected officials need to pay attention to our issues on a regular basis and consistently engage Latinos. How they react to key issues such as immigration reform will not be forgotten on Election Day. It is not enough to wait until six weeks before an election to pay lip service to Latino voters. We are too important to ignore."

Both parties are being served notice, according to Emmarie Huetteman's blog in the New York Times.

 "The Republicans have a great deal to gain in terms of brand improvement and in terms of essentially demobilizing virulent opposition built around the supposition that they are the impediment to immigration reform," Gary Segura, a co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions told Huetteman.

"I think it's clear that Democrats need to demonstrate that they can actually deliver on promises made, and that it's clear that voters need something to vote for, not just something to vote against," Clarissa Martínez de Castro, NCLR's director of immigration and civic engagement is quoted in the NY Times blog.

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