Bilingual-ed initiative helps fuel voter registration drive

The U.S. presidential race and the future of bilingual education in Arizona drew in 11,000 new voters statewide during the Latino Vote 2000 campaign.

State chapters of the League of United Latin American Citizens were among Hispanic organizations working with the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which was hoping to register 5,000 voters in Arizona.

“We are very happy with the results, and we know Proposition 203 was a big reason for the registration turnout,” said Angela Acosta, spokeswoman for the voter registration project based in Los Angeles. Proposition 203 on the statewide ballot Nov. 7 would dismantle bilingual education in Arizona.

Drives were held in 13 states, and officials with the nonpartisan campaign believe they reached their goal of registering 1 million voters, with about 500,000 coming from the Southwest, Acosta said. The three-month drive ended earlier this month, and results are expected to be tallied in about two weeks.

In Pima County, volunteers registered 4,411 new voters, smashing their goal of 1,500, said Teri Martinez, LULAC’s state vice president for women.

“We exceeded our goal by far. The issues that were the driving forces causing people to register were Proposition 203 and the presidential race,” Martinez said.

In the latter, said Martinez, “people wanted to select the best man for the job.”

As for bilingual education, “Once they read the initiative, people decided it was about parental choice. It wasn’t a white and brown issue, and it wasn’t a Spanish and English issue,” said Martinez, summarizing comments heard most often by those registering.

She said people were concerned about eliminating parents’ right to choose what type of education was best for their children.

Nearly 30 core volunteers -many University of Arizona and Pima Community College students – hit the malls and community functions and went door-to-door in South Side and West Side neighborhoods, Martinez said.

College students also gave voter education presentations to high school seniors in government classes, and held drives during lunch hours at school cafeterias.

In Pima County, more than half of the 4,411 voters registered were young people, said Martinez, adding that she did not have facts regarding the ages of newly registered voters statewide.

According to 1997 U.S. Census estimates, Tucson is about 30 percent Hispanic, and Hispanics make up about 20 percent of registered city voters. There are 337,600 registered voters in Pima County.

There are an estimated 1.03 million Hispanics living in Arizona, about 22 percent of the state’s population.

No estimates were available on how many of Arizona’s 2 million registered voters are Hispanic.

* Contact Carmen Duarte at 573-4195 or at [email protected]

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