Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Quote of the moment: NCLR's Martinez De Castro on what motivates Latino voters

A multilingual sign points the way to a polling place, November 2006
A multilingual sign points the way to a polling place, November 2006
Photo by Joe Hall/Flickr (Creative Commons)

"Much has been made about Latino enthusiasm around voting on Tuesday, suggesting that low enthusiasm means 'not voting.' Well, here's the thing: I am voting on Tuesday, but I would hardly describe my mood as 'enthusiastic.'

"All to say that there are different factors vying for Latino attention--some could dampen participation, some could energize it--and the way that candidates define themselves on the issues makes a difference to those energy levels."

- Clarissa Martinez De Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns for the National Council of La Raza, in the Huffington Post

Martinez's opinion piece made the Twitter rounds this weekend. In it she wrote about about the varied perceptions of Latino voters as either a) a solid voting block, aligned on issues and focused chiefly on immigration (which they are not); b) no different than the rest of the electorate, without common interests (which they are also not).

She took issue with media coverage of some recent surveys of Latino voters, including reports from the Pew Hispanic Center that have pointed to low voter motivation among Latinos and a division among Latino voters on issues that include what to do about the nation's undocumented immigrant population.

Martinez wrote: "Since immigration does not traditionally top the priority list (although it has reached number one in several polls this year), some pundits say that Latinos do not care about immigration. Wrong again. Immigration--when it's part of the political debate--serves as a litmus test by which Latinos assess how candidates or parties look at their community."

Examples of immigration as litmus test abound in this election year, among them an erosion of Latino support for the Meg Whitman campaign in part by the candidate's handling of the "housekeepergate" scandal involving Whitman and her undocumented ex-maid, Nicandra Diaz Santillan.

Ads seen as overtly anti-immigrant that have been produced by some candidates' campaigns have not won over Latino voters, either.

Reader "jessepluna" posted this comment beneath Martinez's essay:

I think Latinos know they have a bull's eye target on their backs and will vote in greater numbers than during a typical midterm election.