Nuestro Voto Nuestro Futuro Reaches Out to Escondido Latinos
By Mark R. Day
When you examine how political power is distributed in Escondido, Calif., the picture is not rosy for Latinos. They constitute only 12,000 registered voters out of a total of 55,000 in a total population of 160,000. In the last election, only 10 per cent of these voters made it to the polls.
Volunteers from the American Civil Liberty Union’s (ACLU) “Nuestro Voto, Nuestro Futuro (NVNF)” campaign want to change those figures by persuading these people to vote on November 6.
The precinct walkers, mostly college students, don’t expect immediate results in just two months. But they believe they can gradually shift Escondido’s balance of political power through vigorous voter registration and educational efforts.
Door knocking can sometimes bring surprising results. Logan Williams, 17, a freshman at Palomar College found that she could relate easily to young Latinos, registering several on her first day as a precinct walker.
“There was this one girl who knew absolutely nothing about politics,” she said. “She didn’t even know who the president was. I talked to her in non-legalize language. She registered to vote and now she wants to come and volunteer. This has been a life-changing experience for me.”
In a briefing to NVNF volunteers last week, Angela Garcia of UCSD said that the conservative majority on the Escondido City council reflects the aspirations of the city’s more affluent white population who live in outlying areas while Latinos and lower income residents live mostly in the core inner city area.
“Mayor Sam Abed and his conservative majority respond mostly to the affluent suburbs as well as to developers and business interests,” said Garcia. “Their attitude toward Latinos has been expressed mostly by their failed rental ordinance against undocumented renters in 2006 and by the police checkpoints designed to apprehend unlicensed undocumented immigrants.”
Kevin Keenan, San Diego director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) agrees that power will only change hands in Escondido when Latinos vote. “This may take two or three years, but we’ll get there,” Keenan said, as he walked through eastside Latino neighborhoods last week to meet registered voters.
Keenan stopped at one home where an elderly Latino told him: “Nothing’s going to change here until they fix the problem of los ilegales (the illegal immigrants). They put their money in their mattresses because they are afraid to put it in a bank. That’s bad for everyone. Besides, they are afraid to report crime.”
Jenny Heredez, also a college student, discovered that the world was a small place when she encountered a group of Latinos in the front yard of a home. “Can I ask you some questions?” she asked.
It turned out that the people were from Jenny’s hometown in the Imperial Valley and knew her family and relatives. “From that point it was easy to persuade them to get out and vote on November 6,” she added.
Volunteers from Nuestro Voto, Nuestro Futuro plan to step up their efforts to reach potential voters and to register others in coming weeks. “Every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. we have a workshop dealing with some aspect of the political process and what will be on the ballot,” said Norma Chavez, who coordinates the project.
Volunteers do precinct walking and phone banking from Monday through Thursday from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. and on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The NVNF office is located at 260 S. Orange Ave, in Escondido. Anyone interested in volunteering can call the office at (760) 624-8686.