Local Registration Centers Vital For Potential First-Time Latino Voters

Residents register to vote and fill out the census at Hartford Public Library’s Park Street branch during an outdoor outreach event. (Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public)

Pablo Liriano is an 85-year-old urban gardener who is voting for the first time in November’s election. After waiting more than a decade, he got his citizenship in 2018, and he then registered to vote at Hartford’s Park Street Library in the heart of the city’s Latino community.

“I am Dominican and today I am American. I came here legally on July 10, 1999, and I’ve been here for almost 22 years,” Liriano said in Spanish.

Roughly 32 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote in November, according to the Pew Research Center. In Connecticut, there are more than half a million Latinos; for some of them, voting in the U.S. is a new or different experience. Local in-person assistance centers are vital to voter engagement.

Numbers indicate that there are more Latinos who are eligible to vote, but Charles Venator Santiago says the challenge has been registering them.

“So even though there is a high possibility that Latinos are going to participate, but Puerto Ricans in particular because they’re citizens, there are all kinds of conditions that are making it really hard for Puerto Rican and for Latinos to participate because of the economic crisis,” said Venator Santiago, who is an associate professor of political science at the University of Connecticut.

While potential voters can register online and request absentee ballots, Venator Santiago says that it’s a challenge for families who have temporary addresses or who may not have access to digital tools. He says a physical place with access can make a difference in engaging Latinos in the voting process.

Read the rest of this story at WNPR.org.