Should Latinos boycott by not voting?

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Elvia Díaz

Democrats and Republicans have long fought — though not consistently — to win over Latinos and entice them to go to the polls. Activists traditionally put a lot of energy into delivering that elusive voting bloc.

But this year, some of the same activists are promoting the idea of not voting at all, which has angered some Latinos who say it will minimize voter-registration efforts and could potentially hurt their power as a group.

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The folks behind the boycott are angry with President Barack Obama for deporting more immigrants than any of his predecessors, breaking his promise to enact immigration reform and postponing an executive order to give temporary relief to million of undocumented immigrants.

“Voting alone is not going to bring about change,” said Puente Arizona director Carlos Garcia. “We’re telling people to hold Democrats accountable and not give their vote away.”

Garcia argues that Democrats and Republicans are ignoring Latinos at best and using them as a political football at worst.

“Democrats take us for granted and we know where Republicans stand,” said Garcia, whose idea of a boycott prompted a deluge of emails from other Hispanics denouncing that notion.

A coalition of Arizona Latino groups are trying to register thousands of new voters before the November election. Mi Familia Vota estimates 508,000 Latinos are registered to vote in Arizona. It is seeking to register an additional 40,000.

Ben Monterroso, executive director of Mi Familia Vota, said any talk of a voting boycott hurts the progress made so far in convincing Latinos to cast a ballot.

“It’s not an appropriate decision,” he said, arguing that staying home on Election Day is giving away power.

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, the former mayor of Hayden, said there is too much at stake, including K-12 education, health care, jobs and Medicare. Not everything is about immigration, he said.

“We are the change. We are the shift,” he said. “And to determine our destiny, it all starts with the power of the vote.”

John Loredo, a Democratic political consultant, said in a e-mail exchange with Garcia that he understands “there is a lot of frustration and desperate times call for desperate measures.”

But Loredo added there is a misconception about Democrats.

“Our vote is not something we blindly offer up to the Democratic Party like clueless pawns,” Loredo wrote. “We have gone round and round on policy differences with members of the Democratic Party structure for years. That hasn’t changed.”

Loredo argues that voting efforts of the past have resulted in more Latino Democrats winning elections.

“With those victories have come policy changes that have had positive impacts on Latinos from education to health care and everything in between. Republicans didn’t give us those victories and we often won them over the objections of other Democrats who didn’t share our priorities.”

Erika Andiola, an immigration-rights activist and a co-director of the national DREAM Action Coalition, joined the email exchange with Loredo, Garcia and others.

“We are not just upset,” she wrote. “We are TIRED (sic) of being used by both parties and being told that we have no other option.”

Garcia isn’t advocating that Latinos vote for Republicans to punish Democrats, so what’s a Latino to do? No one should be discouraged to vote, regardless of political affiliation or how deep the frustrations might be. Take your frustration to the polls.

Elvia Díaz is editor of La Voz & TV y Más magazine, Spanish-language publications that are part of Republic Media. Reach her at 602-444-8606 or elvia.diaz@arizonarepublic.com.