CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Latinx population is growing nationwide. The latest data shows Latino Americans are the second largest group of voters in the country. With a high-stakes midterm election rapidly approaching, some politicians are focusing on reaching the Latinx community.
Hector Vaca is a first-generation Latino American
“I’m the son of immigrants. My mother’s from Puerto Rico, my dad’s from Ecuador,” Vaca said. “The reason I say Puerto Rican immigrant is because Puerto Ricans, though US citizens are treated like second class citizens.”
Vaca moved from New York to the Carolinas and noticed inequities. He became politically involved at a young age and now he serves as an organizer with Action NC.
“I see parties as almost like gangs, you have to be loyal to your gang,” Vaca said. “If you’re unaffiliated, then you’re that random person that they need in order to get more power for their for their party or their gang.”
No matter what party a voter supports, there’s an effort to increase Latinx turnout in the upcoming election. Through campaigns like La Voz Di Me Gente, volunteers like Nancy Apolinar are hearing why more voters are registering.
“Not only immigration, but job security labor rights, and other services like healthcare,” Apolinar said.
Led by the Hispanic Federation, the group is targeting people as young as 16 to get them registered and ready to hit the polls when they turn 18.
“Maybe their immigrant parents can’t vote and they don’t necessarily know how to vote or what the importance is,” Apolinar said. “So getting that information out there is a barrier we’ve been seeing with younger voters.”
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The latest data from the US Census shows more than 1.1 million Hispanic people live in North Carolina, a more than 40% increase in the last decade. One in four Hispanic residents lives in Mecklenburg or Wake county. The Republican Hispanic Assembly recently formed a new chapter in Mecklenburg County Francisco Rios is the chair.
“Thanks to COVID many Hispanics have seen what has been going on in their schools. Also, as far as their finances and everything that is going on with our government,” Rios said.
Maria Elena Conaway, vice chair of the Republican Hispanic Assembly of Mecklenburg County was born in Nicaragua. Her parents sent her and her sisters across the border for college. She supports Republican policies on immigration.
“I would love for them to come legally like I did,” Conaway said. “I have seen people that are from Latin America and they have been here and they have been waiting a long time.”
Conaway says her experience in her native country influences her political beliefs.
“I like that the platform for the Republican Party also protects capitalism,” Conaway said. “Capitalism is the success of this country, not socialism.”
Recent polls show the North Carolina Senate race between Democrat Cheri Beasley and Republican Ted Budd tied. Queen City News reached out to both candidates about their approach to reaching the Latinx community.
The Beasley campaign launched Latinos Con Beasley. A spokeswoman said, “Beasley has been meeting voters sharing her commitment to lowering costs, growing good-paying jobs, and creating an economy that works for all of North Carolina.” The spokeswoman went on to say she will be pushing for reforms that secure our border while establishing a pathway to citizenship.
A spokeswoman for Ted Budd says his campaign launched Todos Con Ted to connect directly to the Hispanic community. She says the coalition has already reached more than 75,000 Hispanic voters and is on track to surpass 100,000 voter contacts by election day.
Vaca voted Democrat in the last presidential election, but he says politicians must earn his vote.
“So when politicians come asking for a vote, they should realize that there are many more of us,” Vaca said. “By 2050, Latinos will be the majority group in this country.”