Rallies to encourage Colorado Hispanics to vote early | VailDaily.com

Rallies to encourage Colorado Hispanics to vote early

DENVER, Colorado ” Colorado Democrats will hold rallies in seven cities this weekend in what they call an unprecedented effort to get Hispanics to vote early for Barack Obama.

“If Latinos get out there and vote and vote early for this ticket, our voice will resonate,” Denise Maes, chairwoman of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said at a Monday news conference.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and California Democratic congressmen Xavier Becerra and Joe Baca will be among Obama surrogates at rallies Saturday in Denver, Colorado Springs, Fort Collins, Pueblo, Commerce City, Aurora and Longmont. The effort is part of an initiative called “Viva el Voto!”

Early voting in Colorado began Monday.

Hispanic voters frequently have been cast as difference-makers in close elections. But getting Hispanics to register and vote has sometimes been a challenge.

U.S. Census data show that in the last presidential election in 2004, about 204,000 Colorado Hispanics were registered to vote, and 165,000 actually cast ballots.

In 2006, there were about 228,000 Hispanic registered voters, according to the Census. About 158,000 voted.

Federico Pena, the Obama campaign’s national co-chairman, predicted the Hispanic vote will lead Obama to victory in Colorado and other swing states. He cited a report by the William C. Velasquez Institute, a nonpartisan think tank, that shows Obama and Sen. John McCain in a statistical tie in Colorado if Hispanic voters are factored out. The study suggests that with Hispanic support factored in, Obama wins the battleground states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada.

Counting out Hispanic voters in New Mexico, McCain would lead by four points there, the report found.

The report analyzed polling data from Gallup, Quinnipiac University, Mason-Dixon and others.

Colorado McCain spokesman Tom Kise has said the campaign is aggressively courting Hispanic voters, and McCain supporters have been working phone banks, visiting churches and going door-to-door to solicit Hispanic support.

Celebrities have come to Colorado to back McCain, and on Tuesday, national and local Hispanic evangelical pastors, including pastor Marcos Witt, a four-time Grammy Award-winning Mexican Christian singer, will endorse McCain at his Colorado campaign headquarters.

Pena, who was Denver’s first Hispanic mayor, said Obama’s efforts to reach out to the fastest-growing minority is “not a last-minute thing.”

“It’s been since early on,” he said, noting the more than 50 Obama campaign offices in Colorado, including cities with large Hispanic populations like Greeley and Pueblo. “Now it’s just becoming this tidal wave of support for Barack Obama.”

“Usually, they’re last minute (efforts) but never this steady commitment,” Pena added.

Organizers of Saturday’s rallies say there has never been such an effort in Colorado to get Hispanics to vote early. Other speakers include Arizona congressman Raul Grijalva.

Pena said the bad economy and a “very negative rhetoric” on immigration has also caused many Hispanics to turn away from Republicans.

William C. Velasquez Institute report: http://wcvi.org/data/survey/Latinovotertrends2008.pdf

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