An AL DÍA file photo from 2007 shows a polling place set up in a house, with poll workers working from the kitchen table and voter waiting on sofas.
This isn’t an electoral endorsement, but an endorsement of the act of voting. If there was ever a time for Latinos to massively mobilize and turn out to vote now is that time.
Not because we are wholly enamored of either candidate. Not because a Time Magazine cover proclaimed us the “deciders” in the upcoming election. Not for any other reason than if we don’t vote, we lose.
It is easy to forget how this fundamental right is really a responsibility. From the level of police protection our neighborhoods get, to whether health care coverage will be extended to all regardless of socioeconomic status or preexisting medical conditions, it is all determined with your ballot.
The desire to have a say in government policy and representation is a strong human instinct. An instinct, in fact, that prompts people throughout the world to stand in line for hours, walk unbelievable distances and even risk bodily harm, just to cast a ballot.
Who can forget the images of the massive Sudanese turnout for a referendum on creating two separate Sudans — North and South — or the broadcasts of Iraqis proudly flashing purple thumbs to indicate they had voted in the 2005 parliamentary election in their nation? And yet in the United States, according to Accurate Democracy, only 39 percent of Americans vote.
And, according to NALEO, only 12.2 million out of 23.5 million Latino citizens of voting age are expected to cast a vote in the upcoming elections.
But what if the showing were better? What might that mean in terms of our impact on future policy and focus?
We — Latinos — could be the decisive factor in who becomes president. We are predicted to be the key deciding factor in nine states with 101 electoral college votes, according to NALEO. That’s a substantial chunk of the 270 electoral votes needed to be declared the winner.
The direction of school districts, the availability of medical care, the strength of our social safety net and the quality of entrepreneurial incentive is all determined by whether you make the effort to vote.
Your vote determines whether Latinos will rise to leadership posts in the next four years. Neither candidate for president has adequately addressed the concerns of Latinos in this long but frustrating electoral season, and there are not enough Latino representatives, senators, governors and mayors to push them to look seriously at our needs and to initiate a public dialogue about issues which are important to us.
There has not been enough Latino leadership in power, frankly, to prevent the voter suppression tactics that the institution of Voter ID in Pennsylvania represents.
But ... if you vote this year, four years from now will be a different matter. Because we matter. And our vote matters.
See you at the polls Nov. 6.