We are Not Staying Home on Election Day!

10/08/2010 01:55 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Arturo Vargas Executive Director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO)

My apologies to Shakespeare, but, will they or won't they, that is the question.

That is, will Latinos vote in November, or, as the recent Pew Hispanic Center poll suggests, they might not? As an organization that has been focused on encouraging civic participation in the Latino community for the past three decades, it is difficult to digest the suggestion that Latino voters are not tuned in and barely paying attention to the upcoming elections. The findings are simply inconsistent and incongruous with what many other polls have suggested and what we are seeing in the community.

We released a NALEO survey over the summer that polled Latino voters in four key battleground states: California, Colorado, Florida and Texas. The survey found that an average of 60 percent of Latino registered voters said they "would definitely vote," and an additional 12 percent said they were more than 50 percent certain they would cast a ballot on November 2nd.

One would expect the level of interest would be increasing the closer voters get to the election, right? Given the press attention to SB 1070 in Arizona, efforts to bring the DREAM Act to a vote in the Senate, and the national discourse on comprehensive immigration reform, it becomes very difficult to believe that only a third of Latino registered voters would say they have taken notice.

Other polls of Latino registered voters mirror our findings.

So let's not easily assume that Latinos are disillusioned and may skip the midterm elections. Yes, there is anger in the community, and many Latinos blame Democrats and Republicans for the broken promises on immigration reform. But what we hear from voters is that they will take their anger out at voting booth.

We know from past experience that the anti-immigrant rhetoric surrounding the immigration debate motivated large numbers of Latino voters. That has now manifested itself in data that showed that Latino voters are upset that people are exploiting the issue of immigration without resolving it. In fact, for the first time in years of polling among Latino registered voters, immigration was cited as the top issue as an election approached.

So it remains to be seen who Latino voters will blame for failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, or for the bad economy, or whether they believe healthcare reform will benefit them. What we do know is that the old "Three R's" of education will be rewritten by the Latino voter as the "Three R's" of civic participation: Riled, Restless and Ready.