Latino Politicians Disriminated Against

Latino Elected Officials Still Confront Significant Discrimination at Election Time

Study Underscores Continued Need for Strong Enforcement of Voting Rights Act Protections

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 22 /U.S. Newswire/ — Latino elected officials still must contend with significant discrimination when they run for and hold public office, according to a study released today by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) Educational Fund.

“I Was Asked If I Was a Citizen”: Latino Elected Officials Speak Out on the Voting Rights Act” reveals that Latino elected officials across the nation have confronted discriminatory obstacles ranging from voter and campaign worker intimidation, racial appeals from opponents, and barriers deliberately constructed to limit their voice and likelihood of appointment once elected.

The NALEO Educational Fund’s study reports the results of a survey of 190 Latino elected officials and civic leaders from 24 different states, representing almost all levels of elected office. The survey’s purpose was to assess the impact of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which generally prohibits discrimination in elections and voting against Latinos and other ethnic and racial groups. Among the findings in the study:

— Over half of the respondents reported that they had personally experienced or observed discrimination in an activity related to running for or holding a public office.

— The majority of respondents (86.2 percent) reported a need for Spanish-language assistance in public elections where they reside.

— Over half reported that they had personally experienced or observed voting discrimination against Latinos or other minorities.

“The Latino community is proud of the progress we have made toward achieving full political participation and representation in the last three decades,” stated Rosalind Gold, Senior Director of Policy, Research and Advocacy at NALEO Educational Fund. “However, it is clear from our study’s findings that our nation still has more work to do. For 40 years, the Voting Rights Act has been a powerful tool to combat many of the problems our community still confronts. To sustain future Latino political progress, it is critical that the President and the Department of Justice (DOJ) must vigorously enforce the Act.”

Survey respondents frequently describe in detail overt discrimination against Latino candidates and voters in all facets of elections:

— One respondent decried “disrespectful and discriminatory” statements by a newspaper about the Latino mayor and city council, referring to them as the “tortilla republic.”

— “Election officials purposely turn(ed) voters away by using delay tactics and rude behavior…using derogatory language to intimidate and chase away voters.”

— “I’ve observed lines out the door and around the block in many minority dominant districts for lack of enough voting machines, while across town in suburban precincts no lines are observed.”

Ms. Gold concluded, “As Election 2006 approaches, Latinos are playing an integral role as candidates and voters. Our study demonstrates that we must demolish barriers that deny our community full and fair access to the electoral process. Latinos are now the nation’s second largest population group, and our democracy cannot remain strong unless Latinos and all Americans have a meaningful opportunity to make their voices heard on Election Day.”

About the NALEO Educational Fund

The NALEO Educational Fund is the leading nonprofit organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process, from citizenship to public service.

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