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NALEO researchers are redirecting their aim to improve Hispanic voter turnout, pointing efforts at the most influential target inside Latino households: the women.
The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials is using new findings from recently gathered focus groups to retool its campaign for the Hispanic vote, after participants in Houston revealed that a nudge from wives and mothers could be the key.
“We will develop a strategy where we speak to Latinas,” said Arturo Vargas, longtime executive director for NALEO. “There’s something there that we need to tap into to get our Hispanic mother and wife and sister to get their husbands and brothers and sons to vote.”
The groups — eligible-but-nonregistered and registered-but-not-voting Hispanics — were assembled in December to determine if they were tuned in to the political issues and candidates of the day, Vargas explained.
Participants showed that they closely follow platform issues, and demonstrated awareness but no engagement.
Asked who among them planned to vote in the 2012 elections, none raised a hand. Who might influence them to vote? Participants said they would listen to their wives and mothers.
“What do we have to do to get this great unengaged segment of our community to care?” Vargas said. He chuckled, “If it’s nagging, so be it.”
NALEO’s plan for a Latina-centric strategy is a change from when longtime community organizer Rosie Castro began voter registration efforts in San Antonio in the late 1960s.
Fifty years later, the mission — to empower Latino voters — remains difficult but has made major advances, Castro said.
“When I was young and doing voter registration we often would go to a house in the Latino community and the wife would say: ‘I really can’t register to vote right now. I have to ask my husband.’ It’s incredible to me how much that has changed,” said Castro, mother of Mayor Julián Castro and state Rep. Joaquin Castro.
Joaquin Castro said his mom has emphasized the importance of voting since he was a child. “People in government won’t listen to you if you don’t vote,” she would tell the twins.
“She taught us to believe that through public service you can help create opportunities in people’s lives,” he said.
He said his mother “had all the influence in the world, not only on why I vote, but also why I entered public service.”
NALEO’s new strategy is a smart one, he said. Women “are often the glue” in growing families.
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