WASHINGTON— With three weeks until the Florida Primary, one Latino organization wants to make sure young Hispanics are ready to vote.
The National Latino Evangelical Coalition, a group made up of national evangelical leaders and prominent Latinos, launched a campaign Tuesday to mobilize and encourage young Latinos to get involved in the upcoming political process. They call it “Nuestro Futuro”— Our Future.
“Our hope is that Nuestro Futuro will establish young Latinas and Latinos who are civically engaged in the political process, ” said the Rev. Gabriel Salguero, president of the coalition.
This means being educated on three “crucial” issues: poverty, immigration reform and education equality, Salguero said.
“These are such important issues for the Latino youth and they need to be heard,” Salguero said. “That is why we are trying to help empower young people.”
Nuestro Futuro will kick off with a voter registration drive in Orlando, Fla. The campaign will then travel to Ohio, Arizona, Pennsylvania and New York.
“Many of these states are swing states who have a very large Hispanic, evangelical population,” Salguero said. “Our hope is to establish a big group so we can make a significant impact and help determine the election.”
In Florida, Hispanics make up 22.5 percent of the population.
Since the 2008 presidential election, Latinos have become a key demographic group with a growing electoral influence. According to the Pew Hispanic Center, the number of eligible Latino voters has grown by 2 million since 2008 and now totals 21.7 million eligible voters.
“In the last 10 years there has been a dispersion of the Hispanic population, especially to battleground states,” said Mark Lopez, the associate director of the Pew Hispanic Center. “And when you take a look at mid-term and presidential election cycles, the number of Hispanic voters has been increasing.”
For a candidate, this means becoming acquainted with the Latino community and the issues that are of importance to it.
In 2008, President Obama beat John McCain with the help of more than three-fourths of the Hispanic vote, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.
In the race for the Republican nomination, several candidates have already reached out to the Hispanics. Newt Gingrich set up a campaign office in Miami and created a Spanish website, the Americano, while Mitt Romney has begun advertising on Spanish language televisions.
“All of the candidates with sizeable campaigns are reaching out to the Hispanic community here in Miami because it’s a crucial city for deciding results of the primary and of the general election,” said Bradley Gerber, president of the Young Miami Republicans.
The Florida primary will take place on Jan. 31.
The New York-based coalition’s website describes itself as politically neutral.
“Our goal is not to endorse a candidate or a party,” said Salguero. “Our goal is to endorse our agenda, which is not a party issue. We want a leader who answers to solutions, not with rhetoric that demonizes our people or concerns.”