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Coalition of Latino Groups Launches Voter Drive

By Ed O'Keefe
A multi-million dollar ad campaign designed to encourage voter registration and increased political participation among Latinos who are legal residents launches today nationwide on Spanish-language television and radio stations. The National Association of Latino Elected Officials, in cooperation with National Council of La Raza, Univision, State Farm and other groups will spend $3 to 4 million on the campaign. The coalition will air 30- and 60-second radio ads, as well as public service announcements on Univision, Time Warner Cable, Comcast Cable, and other outlets.

"Every Hispanic family in the United States finds themselves at different points, and we want to help," says one of the State Farm-sponsored radio ads. "It doesn't matter at what point you find yourself here in the United States."

The TV ad calls out to legal residents eager to participate in the American political process, with words on-screen in Spanish stating: "I come from another place. I want a better future. I am full of dreams."

State Farm's $1 million donation to the "Ya Es Hora" ("It's Time") campaign includes participation from the company's bilingual agent offices. The ads encourage people to visit a State Farm office to receive voter registration or citizenship information.

"All the nasty debate last year around immigration reform had really changed the mindset of a lot of Hispanics across the country," said Mike Fernandez, State Farm's vice president of public affairs. The company decided to partner with NALEO, Fernandez said, after State Farm CEO Ed Rust Jr. attended the group's 2007 conference and heard several stories about the nation's immigration system. The company also donates to several national Latino educational programs.

A recent Pew Hispanic Center survey reports that registration and turnout among Latinos increased considerably in several large states during this year's primary contests, suggesting turnout will be high again in November. As in recent polls of all voters nationwide, the same Pew survey reports that Latinos rank the economy, the war in Iraq, and health care as their main issues of concern.

This does not mean however that Latino voters have forgotten immigration.

"It is going to be a mobilizing factor for the Latino vote" because Latinos have been painted unfairly "by a broad brush," said NCLR president Murguia. Her group also donated $1 million to the "Ya es Hora" campaign through a contribution from the Knight Foundation.

While Barack Obama and John McCain "don't touch" immigration as often as they discuss other issues, Murguia says she expects it will be a topic of discussion when both candidates address the annual NCLR conference next weekend. She also expects immigration could be a determining factor in several down-ballot races in the South and Southwest.

Murguia said she does not expect Latinos to hold large immigration rallies this year on the scale of previous ones.

"The next march needs to be a march to the polls on Nov. 4th," she said.

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 7, 2008; 11:07 AM ET
Categories:  Channel 08  
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