Voter turnout still low in Laredo

LAREDO, TEXAS (KGNS) -- Election day is Tuesday, but so far the voter turnout has been low. Unfortunately, low voter turnout is commonplace, especially among the Hispanic community. Although a lot of places experience low turnout from time to time, the Hispanic community has had a prolonged history of voter apathy.

Hispanics in Texas account for nearly four of every ten people, an impressive number. But when you compare that to those of Hispanics who vote, the numbers aren't as impressive. The good news is it doesn't have to stay that way.

Stephanie Diaz is a young mom on a busy schedule. But even so, she is aware of the power of one vote. "You have your say in it. No one can take that away from you," says Diaz.

Diaz is a Hispanic registered voter who heads to the polls come elections. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of people like her in Texas or even in Webb County. The percentage of registered Webb voters who have voted in presidential elections since 1996 has not exceeded 45 percent. That's roughly four out of every ten registered voters. The numbers are comparable to those on a national level, and when compared to other races Hispanics lag behind.

These numbers serve to reflect voter apathy, a prevalent trend among Hispanic voters in the US. One explanation for it in Laredo is due to the kind of political culture we fall into. LCC instructor, Rafael Garcia explains, "In our case I would put our community in that category - the traditionalistic category, where we're fine with other people taking the reins of government and the rest of us just watching from the sidelines." This voter apathy is a concern voiced by voter Stephanie Diaz as well. "Even though you may think it doesn't matter it does on the long scheme of things," encourages Diaz.

The change she's talking about starts with a simple process at 1110 Washington St. where you can register to vote, and even vote during some elections. Just go to the Elections Administrations office and pick up a registration form. You don't need to take any documents, just be over 18 and either a U.S. or naturalized citizen. Once you've registered to vote, come voting day, all you need to do is take a state or government issued I.D., like your driver's license. Then grab a ballot and change those statistics.

If more people do this, it can have a profound effect on election outcomes. Instructor Garcia agrees, "it would be of a great benefit to our community if the rate of voter turnout actually reflected or paralleled that of our numbers in our community."

As of March of this year over 112,130 people are registered to vote in Webb county. However, in last week's early voting elections, only 7,883 people voted. That's only seven percent of voters.

Although Texas has a high population of Hispanics, it actually comes in second to California whose Hispanic population is 5.9 million.

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