News Column

Mi Familia Vota Encourages Valley Latinos to Flex Voting Muscle

Oct. 12, 2012

Erin Tracy, The Modesto Bee

Volunteers for the nonprofit Mi Familia Vota walked precincts in Modesto and Ceres on Wednesday afternoon to encourage Latinos to vote next month.

"Regardless of what candidate wins, they will have to pay attention to us because we will lay down the marker that Latinos are no longer the sleeping giant," said Mi Familia Vota board member Eliseo Medina. "We are awake and, boy, are we getting cranky."

Medina was speaking to a group of about 20 volunteers before it hit the streets, going door-to-door in Modesto and Ceres to talk with registered Latino voters about low turnout at the polls. The group planned to visit 800 households.

"More than two-thirds of registered Latinos are low-performing, low-propensity voters," said La Familia Vota state director Arnulso De La Cruz.

And oftentimes in Latino homes, where one person is registered, another family member is not, De La Cruz said. Volunteers encouraged everyone eligible in the home to register and gave information about how to do it and what is needed when going to the polls.

"The more we do, the more people participate, the stronger democracy is and the stronger I think we are as a community," Medina said.

Volunteers were educating voters about two propositions they said were important to the La-tino community.

Proposition 32 could affect the largely working-class Latino population, many of whom are union members. It would prohibit unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes, but it puts fewer restrictions on corporate donations.

Mi Familia Vota was founded about 12 years ago by several organizations, including the Service Employees International Union. Medina is the international secretary treasurer of the SEIU.

More than 500 people in Stanislaus County are members of the union, including Kaiser employees, home health care aides and service workers such as janitors.

Volunteers encouraged Latinos to vote "no" on Proposition 32 and asked for support of the governor's tax initiative. Proposition 30 would increase taxes on earnings of more than $250,000 for seven years and sales taxes by one-quarter of a cent for four years to fund schools and community colleges.

Many of the volunteers Wednesday were community college students, such as Melissa Santos, who is studying criminal justice at Modesto Junior College. If the proposition does not pass, her tuition could increase from $44 a unit to $66 a unit in the spring, she said.

Mi Familia Vota will make its way down the state through Saturday, then move on to other states, including Florida and Texas, "where the Latino vote could be the decisive vote of who wins and who loses in November," Medina said.

Source: (c)2012 The Modesto Bee (Modesto, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.

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