New Report Highlights Latinas’ Political Participation in Colorado

A report released yesterday by the Latina Initiative underlines the importance of reaching out to Latina women in order to tap the burgeoning potential of the large and growing Latino electorate. Denver-based Latina Initiative contacted over 33,000 households of low-propensity Latina voters in 2006 and managed to register nearly 1,000 new Colorado voters. Of the 33,000 Latinas contacted through mailings, phone calls and door-to-door canvassing, nearly 8,000 turned out to vote in the midterm election.

In 2007, the nonprofit, nonpartisan Latina Initiative, with its mission of increasing civic participation and fostering political leadership among Latinas, focused on promoting citizenship among legal permanent residents and political awareness among Latinas too young to vote.

“This year there will be an increase in registration and turnout among Latinos generally and Latinas specifically, but we’ll also see this political capacity being built that will really come to fruition, not just this year but over the next multiple years,” said Anna Sampaio, associate professor of political science at CU Denver.

Sampaio, a board member of the Latina Initiative, is the author of a report released yesterday by the organization examining the political participation of Latinas in Colorado.

The report notes the significant demographic presence of Latinos – currently 20 percent of the total Colorado population and growing fast due to a steady flow of immigrants from Latin America and a higher fertility rate than non-Hispanic whites. But Latinas show among the lowest levels of political activity, the report notes. Latinas are less likely to vote, do campaign work, offer campaign contributions and contact public officials than Anglo men and women, African American men and women and Latino men.

The low levels of Latina political participation are explained in the report in terms of four major obstacles. The youthfulness of the Latino population (with a median age 13 years younger than the median age for non-Hispanic whites), as well as the high percentage of foreign-born, non-citizen Latinos, mean that many Latinos are ineligible to vote. Generally lower levels of education and income among Latinos compared to whites also are cited by the report to impact voting behavior as Latinos may lack information about the electoral process, the candidates, the parties and the major issues.

The report highlights the efforts of the Latina Initiative, which seeks to foster and sustain political activity among all Latinos by reaching out to Latinas, who serve as leaders in their families and in their social networks. In anticipation of the November presidential election, Latina Initiative members will be busy canvassing targeted districts, sending informational mailings, distributing voting guides and calling up possible voters.

“The big story here is that meaningful mobilization matters,” Sampaio said. “When you have groups that are marginalized and disenfranchised like Latinos, it’s important that people who look like them, who know their history are reaching out to teach them about the political process, about the candidates, and inviting them to get involved.”

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