29 October, 2014
United States citizens of Latin American ancestry could influence the U.S. elections on November 4th. On that day, Americans will vote for members of the House of Representatives, a third of the Senate, and state and local positions around the country. In states like California, Latinos are an important group of voters for the Democratic Party. But both Democrats and Republicans face a challenge in getting their vote.
Latino activists recently signed up new voters at a citizenship ceremony. They were seeking new U.S. citizens like Roberto Hernandez. He registered to vote with help from his son Jose, who is already a citizen and a voter.
Roberto Hernandez wants a bigger voice for the millions of undocumented people living in the country. Here, his son speaks his words in English.
"Better things for the undocumented, for immigrants, give them an opportunity. No discrimination. We should all be treated equal."
In 2008 and 2012, many Latino voters supported President Barack Obama, a Democrat who promised immigration reform. However, the president faced strong opposition from Congressional Republicans. They have demanded a secure border and oppose amnesty, or pardons, for illegal immigrants.
Latino activists are largely Democrats. Many of them are angry.
Activists from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles expressed their displeasure at a press conference. They discussed the situation Latino families face with some Latinos who are U.S. citizens and others who are in the country illegally.
Lauren Diegues is a citizen and a voter. But her grandfather and an uncle risk being expelled from the country. She says she is unhappy with the president.
"I am, because now that I lived it, now I know how other families feel."
Dean Bonner is with the Public Policy Institute of California. The research group is not linked to a political party. He says Hispanics in California are usually Democrats, with smaller numbers of Republicans and independents. But he says California Hispanics are evenly divided among conservative, liberal and moderate voters. He says President Obama's popularity has dropped and that could hurt Democrats in the election.
"We have been seeing a steady erosion of his approval among Latinos. While three in four right before the election in 2012 were approving of his job performance, today that number is 50 percent."
Activists for Hispanics say voters support politicians who show interest in their concerns, in issues such as the economy, education, health care and immigration.
Hector Barreto is with the Hispanic Business Roundtable Institute. He says Latinos could influence the election results in many states.
"Colorado, for example, has a large Hispanic population, North Carolina has, even Arkansas has an Hispanic population. So neither one of those two parties can take those for granted, and Hispanics will continue to play a pivotal role in every election, whether that be a local, state or national, whether it be mid-term or presidential."
Hispanic voters were eight percent of the electorate nationwide two years ago. However, fewer than half of those who were registered actually voted. Activists are working to register more Latino voters and urging them to vote.
I'm Mario Ritter.
This story was was based on a VOA report by Mike O'Sullivan. It was written for VOA Learning English by Mario Ritter. George Grow was the editor.
Words in This Story
challenge – n., a difficult task or problem
undocumented – adj., describes someone without necessary documents to be in a country legally
amnesty - n., a pardon; a release from punishment
independents – n., people not registered with a major party in the United States
register - v., to have one's name officially placed on a list of people permitted to vote in an election or take part in an educational program
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