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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012

9 - Voter Registration, Turnout, and Choice

Summary

Voting in a meaningful election is the defining act of democratic citizenship. Voting is a unique form of political participation in that it is widely engaged in, generally of low cost, and enjoys widespread support as a behavioral norm. Although there are many other forms of political action – ranging from simple conversations to revolutionary violence, and more generally including contacting elected officials, joining civic groups, attending a meeting or donating money – none is as frequently engaged in as registration and voting.

Despite the centrality of the vote to democratic citizenship, voting has often not been an easy undertaking for Latinos. For Latino citizens, voting often involved overcoming vote suppression tactics; low levels of political information; resource disadvantages, including poor education and low income; and in many instances, language barriers that foreclosed participation and that jurisdictions were not motivated to redress. On top of those obstacles to voting, once a Latino voter gained access to the ballot box, there were often poor choices of candidates and few or none from the community itself. Latinos elected to public office, outside of New Mexico at least, were exceedingly rare.

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