By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
2014-01-24 03:22 AM
MIAMI (AP) -- Fewer than half of adult Latino citizens voted in the 2012 U.S. presidential elections, according to the U.S. Census, and that has prompted two national Latino organizations to step up voter registration efforts this year, months ahead of the 2014 Congressional elections.
National Council of La Raza and Mi Familia Vota Education Fund were set Thursday to launch a new campaign to register more than 250,000 voters. Traditionally voter registration drives get going in the spring and summer before the election. By starting in January, the groups hope to top their 2012 campaign of more than 180,000 registered voters.
Americans tend to register to vote and to turn out in higher numbers during presidential elections. But Clarissa Martinez De Castro, who heads up NCLR's immigration and civic engagement campaigns, said the potential for Congress to take up immigration reform creates an additional emotional, as well as practical, incentive to vote in the November elections.
"In 2012 they went to the polls with the economy in their minds and immigration in their hearts," she said.
With the Hispanic vote in mind, President Barack Obama and some Republican leaders still hope to push through this year the first comprehensive change in immigration laws in nearly three decades. The Senate passed a bipartisan bill last year that addressed border security and offered a path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants living in the United States illegally. But the Republican-led House is demanding a more limited approach.
About 13.7 million, or just under 60 percent, of the nation's 23.3 million adult Latino citizens were registered in 2012, but at least 2 million those didn't vote, according to the U.S. Census. Advocates say the number is much higher, as people often report voting even if they didn't.
De Castro said the campaign will focus on those adults who have yet to register, as well as the estimated 50,000 Latino citizens who turn 18 each month. NCLR and the union-backed Mi Familia plan to start their campaign with millions of mailers in Colorado, Nevada, Arizona and Texas, adding in in Florida and California in the spring.
The early efforts of the two organizations are part of a broader strategy to increase the political engagement of the nation's fast-growing and diverse Hispanic communities. Groups like the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials and Voto Latino also play key roles in registering Latinos, as do the country's Hispanic media.
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