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Election Day: Many Latinos in Colorado choose to skip voting

Politics » Apathy, cynicism and busy schedules mean many will avoid polls in a key swing state.

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He also said it takes a lot of time to educate them on how government works.

"I tell them, ‘If you want to make a change, you have to participate,’" he said.

At a glance

Swinging the vote: About this series

The Salt Lake Tribune, in partnership with the Institute for Justice and Journalism at the University of Oklahoma, explored the Latino vote in two Western battleground states in this year’s presidential election. In this first part, the focus is on Latinos in Colorado not participating in politics. In part two, The Tribune explores the home foreclosure crisis and its potential impact on the Latino vote in Washoe County — a swing county in the swing state of Nevada. Both neighboring states of Utah are considered critical to victory by the Obama and Romney campaigns, and both acknowledge the importance of the Latino vote.

Editor’s Note » Podrá encontrar este artículo traducido al español en nuestra página de Internet

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Medrano said recent actions by the president have shown Latinos that Washington does have an effect on their lives. She said that effect became clearer when the Obama administration announced its directive to prioritize deportations and administratively close cases of those who have no criminal record and also when the president issued an order that allows children brought to the country illegally to pursue a college degree and get a work permit. But she also said those moves "riled some people up," and they registered to vote so they could support Romney.

"We hold community forums and, after Obama made his announcement, more than 100 people showed up," Medrano said. "Normally at our forums, we might have 16 or 17 people show up."

Romney outreach » Christine Mastin is an immigration attorney in Greenwood Village and is overseeing outreach to Latinos in Colorado through the Juntos con Romney (Together with Romney) program. That effort has included a series of Latino phone-bank nights, advertising in Spanish and canvassing Latino neighborhoods in a quest to appeal to Hispanic voters throughout the state.

The campaign hit a speed bump with the resignation of Lizbeth Norris-Cohen. She was named Hispanic Outreach Director in April, but she stepped down for personal reasons in June, Mastin said. Alvaro Day was named to the post in July.

Mastin said the message that is resonating among Latinos — and all voters — is jobs and the economy. She said there is frustration among Latinos who don’t think Obama has done enough on immigration reform, and that’s where there’s opportunity to get them into the voting booth.

"That’s the number one priority," she said. "To turn out the vote."

Mastin, the daughter of a dad who was in the Peace Corps and a mother who worked in farm labor camps in California, said she understands the drive immigrants have to succeed in a new country and that Romney wants to help them.

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"He wants to give you the tools to start your own business," she said. "He respects you as a person and he wants you to succeed."

Nick Valenz said that might be true — but he’s not voting for anybody anyway.

Empty promises » Sitting on the front lawn in the Montbello neighborhood, Valenz is a former Marine who voted for George W. Bush in 2004, sat it out in 2008 and will do so again this year. Obama, he said, "hasn’t done s---." He thinks Romney dug himself into a hole during the Republican primary with his talk about illegal immigrants self-deporting.

"He disrespected Hispanics," Valenz said.

In Valenz’s mind, there isn’t a good choice out there.

"They promise so much, but they don’t do anything," he said. "When they get power, they forget what they promised."

The 35-year-old said his construction company did $500,000 worth of business last year. He said he’d like to see "a visa system that actually works" so he could hire willing workers, but he thinks nobody is interested in fixing anything.

His dissatisfaction is so strong, he said he sometimes wishes he could just cash out and move to another country. But then with a laugh he said it’s probably no better anywhere else — noting that in some countries, voting is compulsory.

So his choice in November will simply be to not choose at all.

And he won’t be alone.

dmontero@sltrib.com Twitter: @davemontero

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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