"Muchas gracias." Don't be surprised to hear President George W. Bush or Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) thank voters this way for putting him in the White House this November.
With the candidates in a tight race, it's likely that a small group of people will cast the deciding votes. Perhaps that will be Hispanics. About 7 million will vote this year, or 1 million more than voted in 2000. To ensure that at least that many Hispanics participate, Univision and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund have a multimedia campaign under way called Voces del Pueblo, or Voices of the People. It's intended to get Hispanics registered to vote.
People may say the [Latino] community doesn't respond, but the community responds when you get information to them," says Ivelisse Estrada, vice president of corporate and community relations at Univision. "So we always try to get them the information they need on issues that affect their lives."
campaign includes direct mail, telephone calls and public-service announcements on Univision's TV and radio stations, Web site, and TV programming.
"Our local Univision and TeleFutura stations and radio stations will also [encourage] our community to register to vote," says Estrada. "They do this not only on our airwaves, through public-affairs shows, news coverage and PSAs, but through community outreach."
About 16 million Hispanics are eligible to vote, but only about half are registered. Far fewer typically cast ballots.
There continues to be a gap between Latinos and non-Latinos," says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund.
One of the reasons for that, he says, is that the Hispanic population is younger than the overall population.
"Roughly 40% of the Latino population is under 18, so they can't vote," says Vargas. "Then, we have a large segment in the 18-24 age group, which across the board is least likely to participate. Age is one of the factors that counts against us, but as time progresses our community will mature age-wise and politically." That's a message Univision and NALEO are trying to get across to Bush, Kerry and other politicians. This year's political campaigns are expected to run up $1.5 billion in advertising, according to TNS Media Intelligence/ CMR. But NALEO estimates only 2% of political ad dollars targeted Hispanics in recent elections. Hispanics account for nearly 14% of the population and 6% of voters.