Hispanics could be a growing political force

Published 10:02 am Tuesday, March 4, 2008

By Staff
Training seminar to focus on getting out the vote
Staff Writer
Local and national elections are on the horizon and one group in eastern North Carolina is looking to get the “new kids on the block” into voting booths.
Juvencio Peralta, president of the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina, said that won’t happen until Hispanics are engaged in dialogue about their rights and abilities as voters.
About 4 percent of the population of Beaufort County is Latino, according to Peralta. That’s a very small population compared to some areas of the state, but could still prove influential in upcoming local elections if enough of them are registered voters, he said.
When Beaufort County residents register to vote, each person has the option to designate their ethnicity, but it is not required to register, according to Kellie Harris Hopkins, director of the county’s board of elections. Of 30,025 registered voters in the county, 85 have chosen to designate themselves as Hispanic, according to Hopkins. There are 27,132 voters in the county that have claimed to be of an ethnicity other than Hispanic and 2,808 undesignated voters, she said.
Peralta said the low number of registered Hispanic voters was typical of most counties in the state and elsewhere. That won’t change, he said, until candidates and elections officials reach out to them and begins a dialogue about the importance of casting a ballot.
At a Get Out The Vote workshop hosted by Democracy North Carolina March 15 at the Beaufort County Courthouse, Peralta will share with participants ways in which they can reach Hispanics.
The workshop will be held from 9 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. at the Beaufort County Courthouse. The training is free and open to the public.
Democracy North Carolina is a non-partisan organization that helps local boards of elections and other interested groups to get voters to the ballot box. The March 15 workshop will focus on identifying demographics within county precincts and how to target them during campaigns, according to Tia Stanley, the group’s eastern North Carolina field organizer.
As the guest speaker, Peralta will focus on how to reach the county’s Hispanic community with that message. His association, based in Pitt County, advocates for the Hispanic population of rural eastern North Carolina, to which most Hispanic immigrants come looking for farming jobs, he said. Stanley said reaching the Hispanic population with the get-out-and-vote message could prove effective in local campaigning.
To register for the program, e-mail Tia Stanley, field organizer for Democracy N.C., at tiastanley@democracy-nc.org or call toll-free 1-888-OUR-VOTE before March 12.