Salt Lake County mayoral candidate Ben McAdams will launch a campaign initiative Monday aimed squarely at Latinos and hoping to take advantage of the county’s first-ever election requiring ballots be printed in Spanish.
Ashley Sumner, spokeswoman for McAdams campaign, said the outreach effort — called Latin Lunes — is still in the early stages and they haven’t yet developed targeted numbers of how many Latino voters they hope to register. McAdams currently is a state senator representing Salt Lake City.
McAdams’ Latino campaign push will run every Monday through Election Day.
“We think the Latino vote is critical because it’s a large population that has a significant portion not registered to vote yet,” Sumner said.
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, Salt Lake County’s Latino population is 17.1 percent — or about 175,000 people.
Sumner said the Latin Lunes will feature Spanish-language phone banking from McAdams’ campaign headquarters as well as a door-knocking effort in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods like Rose Park and Glendale.
Tony Yapias, who was an early McAdams supporter during a contentious convention fight with Senate Minority Leader Ross Romero for the nomination, said he thinks there are anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 Latinos who are not yet registered to vote.
The director of Proyecto Latino said the federal government’s requirement that Salt Lake County ballots be printed in Spanish will be a big selling point for Latinos to register this year.
“In the past, what I had to do was to go recruit bilingual volunteers and take them to the polls,” Yapias said. “Now we don’t have to do that because it will be done in their own language and I’m sure that will help increase the Latino vote.”
Sherrie Swensen, Salt Lake County clerk, said the requirement came when the U.S. Department of Justice last year mandated Salt Lake County to print ballots in Spanish for the 2012 election. That requirement was triggered after Census data showed some sections of the county had a population of more than 5 percent that wasn’t proficient in English. Romero said it would be smart for McAdams to do outreach into the Latino community, but said the campaign has not asked him for help in that area.
Romero said McAdams, whom he endorsed at the State Democratic Party Convention last month, might be in for a tough fight if West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder secures the nomination over Mark Crockett in the GOP primary June 26.
“I think Mayor Winder has done a very good job in reaching out into Utah’s diverse communities and I think that’s partly reflective of West Valley City,” Romero said. “So I suspect Mayor Winder will have a lot of support amongst Utah’s Hispanic community because of the city and what the city has been doing and his outreach — not just during an election year.”
Winder said he has Hispanic leaders among his volunteers doing outreach to encourage Latino voter registration while Crockett said his campaign is focused on the primary.
“We have not consciously done anything yet with the Latino groups,” Crockett said. “We’re still busy in a primary, but we are starting to reach out to all of the different groups in the valley.”
The drive to register and get Latinos out to vote could have a significant impact on the election.
In 2008, incumbent Peter Corroon defeated Michael Renckert by 119,558 votes and the county was also carried by President Barack Obama. But with Mitt Romney likely to be the nominee this year, Republican turnout is expected to surge.
But getting Latinos to register and turn out to vote has its challenges, according to Theresa Martinez, associate professor of sociology at the University of Utah.
She said some Latinos come from countries where elections aren’t trusted by the general population and they transfer that view to politics in the United States. However, she said even well-established Latinos who have been here for multiple generations can suffer from apathy.
“They may not like either candidate or have issues with the process just like anyone else who isn’t participating,” she said.
Mike Gorrell contributed to this report.
Need for poll workers
Sherrie Swensen said her office needs about 40 Spanish-speaking poll workers. To inquire, call 385-468-7400. Or visit http://bit.ly/JYHUaD