Latino Influence, Voter Rolls Grow In Battleground Virginia (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Latino Influence, Voter Rolls Grow In Battleground Virginia

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:03
We'll bid farewell to 1912 now and speed back to the present to take a peek at our fast-approaching political future. The polling firm Latino Decisions says that nationwide 50,000 Latino voters become eligible to vote every month. And in the battleground state of Virginia, George Mason University Professor Michael McDonald recently found that Latino voters are more enthusiastic than they were in 2008. Kate Sheehy went knocking on doors with a canvasser in Woodbridge, Va. to ask Latinos if they will vote and if so, why.

MS. KATE SHEEHY

00:00:37
Among the customers munching on sandwiches and sipping soup at Panera Bread in Dumfries, Va., are volunteers for a Virginia New Majority or VNM.

MR. ERIC KOSCYK

00:00:46
Today, there's roughly about 50 percent chance of rain. So please take a poncho, please take an umbrella. Hopefully, the umbrella won't be blown away, but we'll see. And I really appreciate your hard work.

SHEEHY

00:01:01
VNM is a non-partisan organization focusing on voter education. Eric Koscyk, a field director for VNM is rallying his troops.

KOSCYK

00:01:10
I get a sense of a high-turnout election. I think there'll be high-turnout on both sides. I think it'll be very much based on getting out the vote efforts at the last minute.

SHEEHY

00:01:22
Maria Rodriguez is one of the youngest canvassers helping with the effort. So you aren't old enough to vote?

MISS MARIA RODRIGUEZ

00:01:28
No. But I think it's important to get other people to actually get involved. And I wish I could vote, but just getting others to go out there and do it is enough for me. So I’m making a difference this year.

SHEEHY

00:01:39
Maria is 17 years old. She's a first generation American citizen, born in the U.S. to Salvadoran parents who left during that country's civil war in the 1980s.

RODRIGUEZ

00:01:49
Are you voting in this year's election?

MR. SAMUEL CRUZ

00:01:51
No.

SHEEHY

00:01:52
Maria has been speaking with people of various backgrounds, but is most excited about the eagerness of Latino voters.

RODRIGUEZ

00:01:58
For some of them it's the first time voting. Like, they just registered this year. So it's amazing to see, like, how many, like, 60-year-old, 70-year-old Latinos getting involved. So that makes me happy.

SHEEHY

00:02:09
One of the first houses she stops at belongs to Samuel Cruz of El Salvador. He tells her doesn't have time to vote this year. A little more probing reveals that it's not his schedule keeping him from the polls.

CRUZ

00:02:24
(Through interpreter) Neither candidate has focused on what they will actually do. No. Neither of them is convincing.

SHEEHY

00:02:29
A couple of blocks away Walter and Lorena Velasquez of Honduras are getting ready for dinner. Walter says his whole family will vote for President Obama, but he does say he has his doubts about Mr. Obama.

MR. WALTER VELASQUEZ

00:02:41
(Through interpreter) I think right now it's true we are a little disappointed because he hasn't proved anything, but we'll give him another chance to see what he'll do.

SHEEHY

00:02:49
Walter says he did regain some trust in Obama after the president announced his policy for deferred action earlier this year. This act protects some undocumented Latinos brought here as children from deportation. And a recent poll by Latino Decisions found that Latinos have expressed more confidence in President Obama because of this program. Walter admits he doesn’t like politics much and is tired of the campaign, but his wife, Lorena, says she has always loved being involved with politics. She and Walter have two sons. And she says what she considers most in her vote is their future.

MS. LORENA VELASQUEZ

00:03:25
(Through interpreter) And, you know, education is really expensive here. And parents work very hard to have the ability to help their kids a little, but sometimes they can't. And the second is immigration reform. We thank God that we have our citizenship, but we have family and friends that don't and they work hard. And I believe they deserve it also.

SHEEHY

00:03:45
Recent surveys suggest a candidate's stance on immigration issues affects Latino support even among those who say immigration is not their top issue. Even though 17-year-old Maria Rodriguez can't vote, she knows what is important to her.

RODRIGUEZ

00:04:02
I'm a really big advocate of women's rights, specifically the right to choose because even though I may not agree with what they might do, it's their choice.

SHEEHY

00:04:11
Maria says many young people who are part of immigrant families covet the right to vote.

RODRIGUEZ

00:04:16
They're, in a sense, voting for their parents because their parents can't vote and that's what your parents want you to do. They want you to actually be able to vote, something that they can't do. That's the whole reason they came to this country, to give their kids a better opportunity. And in a sense, in voting, you're fulfilling their dream, basically.

SHEEHY

00:04:35
She is hoping by the next presidential election her father will be able to cast his own vote. She's helping him study for his citizenship exam. I'm Kate Sheehy.
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