Activists Strive to Fire Up - and Sign Up - Latino Voters

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Des Moines Register, August 27, 2012

Activists Strive to Fire Up - and Sign Up - Latino Voters

Written by
Jens Manuel Krogstad

A Latino voter turnout and registration drive is on track to contact as many as 50,000 citizens for November’s elections, an organizer said.

The drive is part of a national effort by the League of United Latin American Citizens and other advocacy groups to increase the political clout of the country’s more than 21 million registered Hispanic voters, said Joe Enriquez Henry, president of LULAC Chapter 307.

LULAC, a nonpartisan organization, has so far identified 35,000 registered Latinos in Iowa, and hopes to register thousands more during annual celebrations scheduled in September around the state, Henry said. In Des Moines, the Latino Heritage Festival will be held Sept. 15-16 on the Locust Street and Walnut Street bridges.

Henry and an assistant have combed through more than 1 million voter files to compile what he calls the first statewide voter database of a minority community. The list of names will be used to send mail, knock on doors and make phone calls to encourage people to vote and to educate people about issues. The databases aren’t shared with campaigns or political parties, he said.

To do outreach, Henry said LULAC plans to partner with Voto Latino, an organization chaired by actress Rosario Dawson. Another collaborator is the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, which will help educate citizens about their voting rights.

Henry said ACLU’s participation is necessary because of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz’s plans to investigate more than 1,000 registered voters his office has said may be ineligible to vote because they are not citizens. Critics have questioned the accuracy of the federal database that will be used to identify recently naturalized citizens.

“His energy and our money would be better spent on registering more people to vote, as past secretaries of state have done,” Henry said.

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