By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI— Only 573 votes in the state of Florida made the difference in the 2000 presidential elections, handing Texas Gov. George W. Bush his place in the White House over Vice President Al Gore.
Twelve years later, a nonpartisan group founded by Colombian journalist and author Ana Maria Jaramillo, is launching a website in English and Spanish to educate and encourage Hispanics to be vote in the fall, making sure every vote counts.
The website is VotoLatino2012.com.
Florida Watchdog spoke with Jaramillo at the launch held Wednesday in South Beach, Miami.
Florida Watchdog: Why are launching the site VotoLatino 2012?
Ana Maria Jaramillo: Our idea is to engage others in the electoral process, connecting with all Latinos through social networking and to stimulate them to register and vote in the upcoming elections on Nov. 6.
FW: Is it a partisan organization?
AMJ: No, not partisan. In fact, our website is orange so as to not identify with any individual political party.
FW: How is it funded?
AMJ: We have several private donors who are helping us organize the website and our activities.
FW: What kind of information voters can find the website?
AMJ: In addition to news and information found on the electoral process, there will also be bloggers who write about politics. There is a section on Latino reporting: who we are, where we are, what is the profile of each of the Latino communities, with census data and the PEW Hispanic Center. You can also find the videos with different political ads.
FW: Why launch the website right now?
AMJ: Because we are four months before the election! It started earlier this year, we have been maturing the idea and working hard. But this is the time that people have to go out and register and participate.
FW: What must Hispanics know for the forthcoming elections?
AMJ: They must know that who they vote for will eventually make decisions to impact their lives. They must know that what happens on the day of the election will then affect your home, your school and your job at work.
FW: Is there a trend for the Hispanic vote?
AMJ: In general, it has always been more of a Democratic rather than Republican trend. But this election is different because there is much disappointment in the community, especially after the broken promises of President Barck Obama. I think Republicans are hoping more Hispanics stay home and don’t vote, because it is harder for the mass Hispanic electorate to turn toward a Republican. I think it’s easier for them to discourage voting for Democrats.
FW: Why might some Hispanics be turned off by the Democrat’s message?
AMJ: I think it is related to Obama’s broken promise of comprehensive immigration reform. Because the economy is an issue that affects everyone equally, even though unemployment is higher among Hispanics.
FW: What issues are of concern to Hispanics?
AMJ: Those interested in the whole world, as well as immigration. Because there are many Hispanics who are immigrants, but many have relatives who are not.
FW: How do you focus your message to the electorate about the parties?
AMJ: Democrats give their message as “we are your party, we have always worried about you. You are vulnerable and we protect.” And the Republican message is highlighting all the broken promises of President Obama and encouraging Latinos to stay home. The abstention will be higher but the strategy is changed.
FW: Do you perceive any difference in the ads shown to Spanish-speaking voters as opposed to English ones?
AMJ: I think there is much difference. The Republicans will present charismatic Hispanic figures in the party to create the image that (presumptive GOP nominee) Mitt Romney is the best candidate in this race.
FW: What is the number of Hispanics registered to vote?
AMJ: Hispanics eligible to vote reached 22 million this year, but we are expected to be only 12 million voting in the end. That number is similar to the 2008 elections, wherein only half of the people eligible to vote will vote.
FW: Why are Hispanics important for the next election?
AMJ: Because the polls are so close. There are states where elections are still hotly contested and are places that have high Hispanic concentration, like Florida, Ohio, Nevada and Colorado.
FW: What is the percentage of independent Hispanic voters?
AMJ: I don’t have that number now, but it has defintely grown in the past few years.
FW: Is religion still a major factor to the Hispanic electorate?
AMJ: Hispanics are not very enthusiastic of Obama because he is in favor of abortion and has openly defended gay marriage. I don’t think he realizes that Hispanics are still very traditional in this regard. It will be interesting to see how they treat him in this election.
To learn more, visit VotoLatino2012.com.
Spanish-language interview with Ana Maria Jaramillo:
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