U.S. News

U.S. Hispanics ramp up drive to register voters

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. Hispanic activists laid out plans on Friday to register 2 million new Latino voters to boost the clout of the United States’ fastest-growing voter bloc in the November presidential election.

Organizers representing more than 100 grass-roots Hispanic organizations from a dozen states met in Los Angeles to fine-tune a drive to get Latinos to sign up and vote in the November 4 election.

Hispanics account for about 9 percent of the U.S. electorate and are the nation’s fastest growing minority group. They could be a critical swing voting bloc in battleground states like Florida and those in the Southwest.

Organizers of the initiative say activists will seek to register voters through community-based drives, focused on battleground states such as Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico that they say have been overlooked by both Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.

“The candidates have articulated generally well on the issues that relate to Latinos, but have insufficiently invested in our community in terms of campaign operations on the ground in those battleground sates,” said Nativo Lopez, president of the Mexican-American Political Association.

In recent weeks both McCain and Obama have addressed several national Hispanic organizations in their hunt for votes, stressing economic and educational proposals they said would help Latinos as well as reviving plans for a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws.

In 2004, President George W. Bush won about 40 percent of the Hispanic vote -- a Republican record -- in defeating Democrat John Kerry. But opinion polls show Republican standing among Latinos has since been hurt by a shrill debate over immigration reform.

Last year, Republican lawmakers killed a bipartisan bill in the Senate that would have offered many of the estimated 12 million, mostly Hispanic illegal immigrants, a path to citizenship, along with tighter enforcement. It had been backed by both McCain and Obama.

The drive to encourage Latinos to vote began in earnest last year after hundreds of thousands of Hispanics marched through the streets of many U.S. cities calling for an overhaul of immigration laws.

Reporting by Syantani Chatterjee; Editing by Tim Gaynor and Eric Walsh