Latino Vote 2016

Latinos in Florida are determined to vote

Not even a hurricane has stopped our Florida staff from making sure all are registered and vote

By Stephanie Presch, Content Editor/Writer

As Florida’s registration deadline neared, Natalie Carlier, NCLR’s Regional Coordinator and Southeast Liaison, was directing voter registration teams in Miami to talk to people before Hurricane Matthew touched down in the state.

While our Miami office was preparing to close for the storm, canvassing teams were pulling into gas stations and Home Depots where local residents had flocked to stock up on supplies. The impending storm gave our canvassers a chance to speak with potential eligible voters who they hadn’t been able to reach before.

Natalie Carlier - NCLR

This also came on the last weekend before the state’s registration deadline of October 11. “The deadline creates a sense of urgency,” says Carlier (pictured), noting that they surpassed their registration goals right before the hurricane.

Carlier has been committed to voter registration efforts for the past seven years, often working 15-hour days in order to direct the canvassing teams. But the work doesn’t stop once a voter fills out a registration form. Her job includes maintaining the integrity of the voter registration program at NCLR, which means ensuring that information that is sent to the state’s Department of Elections is accurate and timely.

Back in 2012, when the state enacted onerous voter registration laws on third-party voter registration organizations like NCLR, Carlier would drive two hours out of her way every day to deliver the forms personally. When we spoke before Hurricane Matthew hit, she mentioned that the Department of Elections would be closed through the weekend, even though canvassing was scheduled to resume into the weekend in advance of the registration deadline. 

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Reaching as many eligible new voters as possible

Much like Affiliates Centro Hispano Daniel Torres in Pennsylvania, Su Clínica Familiar in Texas, or Promise Arizona—all participants of our Latino Empowerment and Advocacy Programwe have conducted our own canvassing in Florida, out of both our Orlando and Miami offices.

Carlier explains that in both regions, they began with two teams of five people each—one captain and four canvassers—back in March before the state’s primaries. In the months since then, NCLR’s canvassing footprint in both regions has increased—from two teams to four to six.

Teams take morning or afternoon shifts and go to local areas such as supermarkets or shopping plazas to find eligible people who have not yet registered to vote. Each team has a goal of registering 74 eligible new voters each day.

Canvassers registered voters at the 2016 NCLR Annual Conference in Orlando.

Florida, the ‘swingiest’ swing state

Carlier says that many of the people they have encountered during their voter registration efforts have expressed concern about both major party candidates—while many are worried about Trump’s rhetoric, others also feel that Clinton is untrustworthy.

“People don’t have an immediate tie to one party or another; they’re focused on what that candidate has to offer them,” Carlier says, noting that an increasing number of people registered with NCLR canvassers have no party affiliation, even though voters have to register as either Democrats or Republicans to vote in the state’s primaries for major party candidates.

Florida has traditionally been thought of as a swing state, and indeed, in 2012, President Obama took the state from Mitt Romney by a razor-thin margin of 0.9%. Florida is also home to 4.8 million Latinos, and 2.6 million eligible Latino voters. As 18% of Florida’s electorate is Hispanic—and given the state’s history of close races—Florida Latinos are poised to have a substantial impact in the upcoming election. The fact that many voters who have been registered by the canvassers do not express a party affiliation sends the message that what will matter on Election Day are the issues.

Determined to be heard

Since our conversation with Carlier, Florida’s voter registration deadline was extended to October 18, a week past the original deadline. However, even without the extension, NCLR has registered more than 50,000 eligible new voters in the state during this election cycle. Carlier notes that many of the people who the canvassers were able to reach were new citizens who naturalized for the express purpose of exercising their voice at the ballot box on Election Day.

This hit home for Carlier, who remembers going to the polls with her mother in 2008, and being struck by the hard work and dedication that her mother had to go through from leaving Colombia to becoming a U.S. citizen.  

Maria Garza, President of NCLR Affiliate Mexican American Council in Homestead, echoes this sentiment.

“We serve hardworking American families who are eager to participate fully in our democracy,” Garza says. “What we tell people is that it doesn’t matter who you vote for—what matters is that you vote. By becoming a voter, our people can ensure that elected officials hear their concerns and create policies that provide them with better opportunities to succeed.”

Raise your voice and make a difference with your vote! Visit nclr.us/Voting and nclr.us/VoterCentral to find out where you need to go to vote, learn about identification requirements at the polls, and more. 

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