Hispanic Voter Registration: Why It’s on the Decline

Find out how dirty strategies executed by government officials, including thrown-away registration forms and clerical errors, have devastated the Hispanic voter registration rate.
By Greg Palast
October 2012
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Based on investigative reporting for “Rolling Stone” and BBC television, “Billionaires & Ballot Bandits” is a story of the billionaires who want to buy elections and how they can steal them in nine ways.
Cover Courtesy Seven Stories Press
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In 2000, Greg Palast exposed how Katherine Harris removed thousands of innocent Black citizens from voter rolls as “felons.” It was Palast for Rolling Stone, with co-author Bobby Kennedy, who uncovered more ballot-bending trickery—from inane ID laws to “caging” of absentee ballots that earned the thanks of the US Civil Rights Commission. Now, in Billionaires & Ballot Bandits (Seven Stories Press, 2012), Palast tells two stories: First, the 9 ways over 5.9 million votes can be stolen in November 2012—unless the ballot bandits are stopped. And, second, how billionaire PAC-men purchase Congress and the White House through a mudslide of money. Discover the dirty strategies that discourage Hispanic voter registration in this excerpt taken from Chapter 26, “Block the Vote.” 

It’s lookin’ bad for the old white guys. Eleven million Hispanic citizens remain unregistered, Americans all, and 15 million kids between the ages of 18 and 24 who can’t be pried away from Facebook long enough to register—at least so the tally of vote registries say.

Now, add to that 16 million ex-cons who can vote but think they can’t. (It’s only in three states in Old Dixie where those who’ve served felony sentences are barred from voting.)

All these un-voters, if they suddenly registered, could rock the planet.

You think the Old World Order hasn’t thought of that?

So, then, how do they stop Americans from taking over America? Easy: first, make registering voters a crime. 

In a swing state like Florida with its huge new Hispanic population (no, not Cubans, Puerto Ricans), you make it illegal to register citizens at welfare offices, churches, or voter-registration drive meetings. (Suggestion: sneak voter registration forms into handgun barrels. Guns are allowed at all these locations.)

Second, make registering voters as risky as a derivative from JPMorgan. In Florida (I love using Florida for vote suppression examples, don’t you?), Governor Jeb Bush made it a crime, with vicious fines, to turn in voter forms more than forty-eight hours after they were gathered, or with itty-bitty errors in them. He successfully put the League of Women Voters out of the registration business until June 2012 when a judge enjoined Florida from sentencing registrars to hard time. But with ACORN’s corpse still fresh, the League and others remain fearful of going into the streets of Miami with clipboards.

Still, why is the Hispanic voter registration rate so absolutely dismal?

According to the New York Times, it’s first and foremost the Latinos’ “entrenched pattern of nonparticipation.” In other words, they’re just lazy, don’t give a taco, and treasure their siesta more than their vote. Nowhere in the long, front-page article does the Times writer veer from the racial profile of Chicanos as unengaged if not hostile to registering to vote.

If the Times checked the stats instead of relying on stereotypes from an old Cantinflas movie, it could have found from the detailed survey by the US Census Bureau that white voters are one-third more likely than Hispanic voters to say they don’t register because of disinterest.

Indeed, the statistical survey shows Hispanics the most committed of any ethnic group to attempting to register. While the Times article tediously quotes those Hispanics who say their vote won’t make a difference, the Census shows that whites express that view twice as frequently as Hispanics.

The biggest problem identified by Hispanic citizens themselves in registering is “difficulty in English.” D’oh! The Times no piense de eso, los chingates. 

But there’s another explanation for the drop in Hispanic voter registration: Hispanics do register, by the millions—only to have their registration forms rejected, or, if they sneak onto the rolls, have their names purged. And The Times said nothing about the Purge’n General, Donetta Davidson, who removed one in five voters from the registry when she was Colorado’s Secretary of State.

The Times, if their reporters weren’t too lazy to check the facts, would find out that the majority of registration forms submitted by legal voters of color in California had been rejected. 

For several years, Hispanics have filled out the forms and the state has thrown them out.

It was the Republican Secretary of State Bruce McPherson who rejected nearly half (42 percent) of new registrations out of hand in California, over fourteen thousand voters in LA County alone. (He didn’t, by the way, bother to tell the voters. He wanted to make it a surprise on Election Day.)

Only the County of Los Angeles questioned this alleged avalanche of phony voters. The county called each rejected voter and every one reached was in fact legit, but their names were input wrong by the state clerks or simply rejected as “suspicious” to the GOP official. (NB: Asians vote Democratic, and their registration rates are worse than for Hispanics.)

And that’s yet another way to kill your registration: about 2.2 million names have been misspelled or contain other errors made by government clerks. McPherson’s replacement Bowen told me that they couldn’t handle the hyphenated and unfamiliar spellings of new voters; but the GOP officials tagged clerical errors of the state as “fraud” by voters.

When the voters arrive, in most cases they’ll be told, “Tough luck, Chuck!” or handed a provisional placebo ballot.

And as California goes, so goes the nation. Several states now require that proof of citizenship be mailed in with the form. Dear reader, do you have proof of citizenship that matches your registration name, signature, and address?

It’s crazy, but only two states, Maine and Michigan, have more than 50 percent of eligible Hispanic citizens registered. Michigan’s former Governor Jennifer Granholm told me that was only possible because she teamed with the NAACP to fight the Republicans’ creepy purge campaign.

Yes, there are fewer Hispanics and African Americans on voter rolls than in 2008, but it’s not for lack of trying. With 20 million registrations purged each year under the Help America Vote Act, plus the massive rejections, plus the state errors, it’s surprising that there are any voters of color left at all.

Those who attempt to register get defeated in an impossible game of chutes-and-ladders, a maze with trap doors and lions and tigers and bears. In the swing state of Indiana, new ID laws have kept three out of four Hispanic citizens from registering.

And despite the federal law requiring states to make voter registration forms available at government offices, in some states like Florida, the papers have been yanked from welfare offices and outlawed in high schools.

It’s worked damn well too. The number of voting citizens with incomes less than $15,000 has actually declined. Mission Accomplished! In Florida, registration is down by eighty-one thousand in May 2011 compared to May 2008.

So get ready for the bottom line: the number of black and Hispanic registered voters in the USA has fallen radically since 2008, by two million in these four years.

The Obama campaign, squeamish about making race an issue, is literally in denial—casting doubt on the US Census registry figures—rather than confronting the cybernetic resurrection of Jim (and José) Crow.

And that’s why, by the way, I’m telling you to steal back your vote yourself. Relying on political parties didn’t work for Martin Luther King, and he won a Nobel Prize. You have to defend yourself, not wait for a politician to protect you. (Self-defense weaponry downloaded free at Billionaires & Ballot Bandits: 7 Ways to Beat the Ballot Bandits and resource groups.)

But let’s consider the strange notion that Hispanic voter registration is falling because the illegal aliens on the voter rolls are running back over the border, back to Mexico. 

In the swing state of Arizona, that is the official line. (Warning: while other states have official flowers, Arizona has official delusions. It’s the heat.) Anyway, about a hundred thousand Hispanics have had their names removed from the voter rolls in Arizona, and Rolling Stone thought I should go catch a couple of these aliens in the act of voting.

This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Billionaires & Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps, by Greg Palast, published by Seven Stories Press, 2012. 


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