If the Latino vote keeps be­ing taken for granted, the sleep­ing gi­ant will never wake

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - Es­ther J. Cepeda Colum­nist Es­ther Cepeda’s email ad­dress is es­ther­j­cepeda@wash­post.com. Fol­low her on Twit­ter, @ es­ther­j­cepeda.

CHICAGO >> News sto­ries are start­ing to trickle out cit­ing “deep con­cern” about whether His­pan­ics -- who, polls show, pre­fer Hil­lary Clin­ton over Don­ald Trump -will head to polls in the num­bers the Democrats need in or­der to win.

But a bet­ter ques­tion is: Why should Lati­nos be ex­pected to turn out to vote when so lit­tle at­ten­tion is paid to them? They seem to mat­ter only to jour­nal­ists hot to pub­lish overly sim­plis­tic re­ports pro­claim­ing that His­pan­ics will ei­ther be de­ci­sive or again fail to punch their weight on Elec­tion Day.

To put this in per­spec­tive, here’s what a new weekly poll — a col­lab­o­ra­tion among the His­panic polling firm Latino De­ci­sions, Tele­mu­ndo News and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Latino Elected and Ap­pointed Of­fi­cials (NALEO) — has to say about what Latino out­reach looks like in the weeks be­fore the elec­tion:

While more than 91 per­cent of polled Latino reg­is­tered vot­ers stated they would more than likely cast bal­lots this year, more than 60 per­cent re­ported that they had not been con­tacted by a cam­paign, po­lit­i­cal party or or­ga­ni­za­tion.

For all the talk about “The Sleep­ing Gi­ant” and de­mog­ra­phy-as-destiny, the ma­jor po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns are ef­fec­tively mak­ing as­sump­tions about what His­pan­ics will do come Novem­ber and then leav­ing it all to chance.

Why? Be­cause Lati­nos hap­pen to be con­cen­trated in a few key states and when those states are writ­ten off as a lock for a par­tic­u­lar can­di­date, no re­sources for voter ed­u­ca­tion or turnout are in­vested in them, set­ting up a loselose sit­u­a­tion.

Var­gas told me that he has warned top lead­ers in the Clin­ton cam­paign that they can­not travel to the west side of Los An­ge­les to fundraise and then never bother to cross into the east side of town to en­gage with the His­pan­ics that make up one out of ev­ery three Latino vot­ers in the state.

Worse, when you take whole con­stituen­cies for granted in one ge­o­graphic re­gion, it rip­ples out­ward in a vi­cious cy­cle that has the ef­fect of sup­press­ing voter turnout.

As with all other ma­jor move­ments, in­fra­struc­ture build­ing is key. The Latino vote will never live up to its po­ten­tial if it has to prac­ti­cally start from scratch ev­ery new elec­tion cy­cle.

I’ve asked the heads of many Latino ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tions how best to cre­ate long-term change and the an­swer is al­ways more money — but tim­ing is just as im­por­tant.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton ar­rives at Toledo Ex­press Air­port in Swan­ton, Ohio, on Mon­day.

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