PHOENIX – Concern that too many Latinos aren’t engaging in the political process has two groups trying to bring the political process to them.
The Voter Participation Center and Voto Latino announced Thursday that they are mailing more than 100,000 registration applications this week to eligible Arizona citizens. It’s part of an effort that leaders said has sent 6.6 million applications in 27 states and 300,000 in Arizona since last September.
“What we are trying to do is sort of bring democracy to people,” said Page Gardner, president and founder of the Washington, D.C.-based Voter Participation Center, which identifies itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan group.
The two groups say 1.5 million eligible Arizonans aren’t registered to vote. For the primary election, Arizona had 3.1 million registered voters.
“Our goals are to very subtly, but undeniably, become present in the conversations that are being had about politics,” said Viva Ramirez, Arizona field director for Voto Latino, a group founded in 2004 by actress Rosario Dawson.
Organizers said the applications have been reviewed, edited and approved by the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office.
“People then need to complete, sign and sent directly back to election officials,” Gardner said. “They don’t send them to us.”
Stephen A. Nuño, an assistant professor of American politics and Latino politics at Northern Arizona University, said reaching out to register Latino voters is effective because many aren’t connected with the political process.
“Either you go to politics or politics goes to you,” he said in a telephone interview. “When you are integrated in the system, politics goes to you all the time through mail or friends at parties, etc.”
Meanwhile, Nuño said, Latino participation has increased in Arizona and California because of concern over laws on illegal immigration.
“Ironically, the rhetoric around, say, SB 1070 is actually encouraging Latinos to come out and participate,” he said.