These Changes Could Make It Harder For 875,000 Latinos To Vote

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You've studied the issues, watched the debates, and finally decided which candidate to support come November 8.

But what if laws discouraged — or downright prevented — you from casting a ballot?

That could be the case for more than 875,000 Latino voters living in states, counties, and cities that have recently enacted new requirements surrounding Election Day, a report released this week warns.

The report, issued by the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund, found that 8 million Latino voters — about one-third of the voting demographic's population — are heading into the general election without protections that existed during the last presidential campaign.

One factor is a Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the Voting Rights Act that required federal oversight of communities that had a history of discrimination at the polls. And since 2012, 19 states have enacted new laws that the group believes create barriers to participation for Latino voters, such as ID and other documentation requirements to register or vote. Other changes, like consolidation of polling places and lack of access to language services, can also create issues.

“More than 13.1 million Latino voters are expected to cast ballots in 2016. While historic, we know millions more will stay at home on Election Day,” Arturo Vargas, executive director of the NALEO Educational Fund, said in a statement. “To maximize participation among Latinos, we need to be promoting policies that make voting and registering to vote more accessible, and not less accessible, to the nation’s second largest population group and all qualified U.S. citizens.”

Primary contests in some states showed concerning signs of what's to come in November. In one Arizona county, for example, the wait to vote reached up to five hours.

NALEO officials are pushing for Congress to pass legislation strengthening the Voting Rights Act protections. In the meantime, the group's Educational Fund operates a toll-free bilingual hotline for voters who have questions or encounter issues. The number is: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (1-888-839-8682).

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