October 7th, 2012
10:47 AM ET

Latino voter registration efforts running out of time in Pennsylvania

Editor’s note: In America follows the fight to win an essential voting bloc in Nevada, a battleground state with one of the fastest-growing Latino populations in the nation. Soledad O’Brien reports in “Latino in America: Courting Their Vote” on CNN TV at 8 p.m. ET Sunday.

By Soledad O'Brien with Rose Arce and Khara Lewin, CNN

In the days before a voter registration deadline, Latino groups are usually wrapping up their outreach efforts aimed at driving potential voters to the polls on Election Day. But this election season, Rafael Collazo led a sparse team of volunteers into the streets of Philadelphia, scrambling to get voters he wishes he could have signed up months ago.

"We sort of plan our campaign so that we're not in an extreme rush to the very end," said Collazo, who works for the National Council of La Raza. But this year, his tiny team is running into row houses dotted with Puerto Rican flags, shouting in English and Spanish about the need to register and vote. Team members have visited high schools and tried to rally apathetic youth who would be voting for the first time, if only they would register with the state.

The efforts were delayed because, instead of just registering voters, La Raza and other Latino voter registration groups spent months making sure voters would have the right IDs to show at the polls - though that statewide requirement was put on hold by a judge last week.

Judge blocks Pennsylvania voter ID law for November election

So after months of driving people to state offices to get IDs, enduring long lines at motor vehicle departments, and looking for elusive paperwork, these community organizations are now back to registering voters, just a few days before the Pennsylvania deadline. The state accepts new registrants through Tuesday. Monday is Columbus Day, a federal holiday.

"We've never seen such an unprecedented experience as 2012," said Cynthia Figueroa, director of Congreso, which works in Pennsylvania Latino communities. "What was created around the voter IDs and the emphasizing that there was even any voter ID fraud, then the subsequent laws that were passed, created tremendous barriers for individuals in the community. The work and energy that I've seen or the attention around the elections this year, I've never experienced in the time that I have been working in this community." FULL POST

Filed under: 2012 Election • Latino in America • Politics • Who we are