Izack Tenorio spends his days splitting time between phone banks and door-to-door canvassing.
The 21-year-old works for Mi Familia Vota, a civic organization geared toward increasing Hispanic voter participation, and on Tuesday, he knocked on doors in a quiet neighborhood near Alta Drive and Decatur Boulevard.
It is noon, and few people were home. At his first stop, he asked for Joann, who is listed at the address as a registered voter. Tenorio is told Joann is sleeping, and he leaves a flier with information about early voting.
Not a single person comes to the door in any of the other homes Tenorio visits on the block. Behind him, two other canvassers from Obama for America also are working the street, knocking on the same doors that were unanswered minutes ago and leaving similar information about where and when to vote.
Political pundits, campaign organizers and national magazines have declared 2012 the year of the Hispanic voter. Voter registration numbers and enthusiasm is up, and now all of those who invested in the wake-up call for this once-dormant demographic want to make sure it does not hit the snooze button on Election Day.
"I worked registering voters in 2008 and 2010, and I've seen a lot of enthusiasm this year," Tenorio said. "There are a lot of groups on the ground in Nevada encouraging Hispanics to get involved, and I've seen whole families come into our offices to all register together. I think people are starting to embrace their role and the choice they can participate in. Now, we just have to make sure they take that final step of getting to the polls."
Mi Familia Vota came into this election cycle with the goal of registering 11,000 voters in Nevada. A few months in, the organization met that benchmark and set another one. That one was broken, too. More than 19,000 voters, the vast majority of them Hispanics, were registered, said Leo Murrieta, state director for Mi Familia Vota.
In a nationwide poll, Latino Decisions found that 8 percent of Hispanic voters had voted early as of Oct. 29 and 87 percent of Hispanic voters said they were "almost certain" to vote. Also, 45 percent of the demographic said they were more excited to vote this year than in 2008, when 84 percent of registered Hispanics voted. Notably, the percentage of Hispanics who said they were certain to vote and more enthusiastic than in 2008 have both increased in the weeks leading up to the election.
In the presidential race, Republican candidate Mitt Romney would like to do better than the 20 percent of Hispanic voters John McCain won in 2008 in Nevada and the 31 percent nationwide. McCain's numbers were a steep dropoff from the 44 percent of Hispanic voters George W. Bush took nationwide in 2004. The latest Latino Decision tracking poll has President Barack Obama with a 73 to 21 lead among Hispanic voters nationally.
After neglecting the on-the-ground work needed to build support in the Hispanic community for much of the 2000s, the GOP has made a concerted effort this election season to increase engagement.
"The biggest difference in the approach toward Hispanic voters this cycle is the organization and outreach on the GOP side," said UNLV political scientist David Damore, who added Republicans were targeting small-business owners and social conservatives. "Previously, all the organization was largely on the Democratic side. ... McCain didn't do anything here, and that's when you started to really see all the work Democrats had laid over prior election cycles pay off."
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