MIAMI (AP) – The nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization has launched a major voter-registration drive in the battleground state of Florida to identify and sign up hundreds of thousands of potential Hispanic voters.
The Washington-based National Council of La Raza announced its plans Thursday morning at a news conference in Miami.
With nearly 5 million Hispanics, Florida has the country's third-largest Hispanic population. About 2.6 million are eligible to vote, but less than 1.8 million are registered to vote, according to Florida election officials.
Hispanics in Florida are a diverse lot. Nationwide, Mexican-Americans make up the vast majority of Hispanic voters. In Florida, Cubans and Puerto Ricans represent the bulk of state voters.
The non-partisan NCLR has successfully registered voters for years in Florida and across the country. To date, they have added 245,000 Hispanics to Florida's voter rolls. In 2012, they persuaded 55,000 voters to sign up to vote.
"We want to make sure our community has the information and the tools they need to become voters," NCLR President Janet Murguia, who was flanked by several canvassers in red T-shirts, said at the news conference. "My message to anyone who is concerned about attempts to turn Americans against each other is to speak up."
Murguia said the NCLR is focusing its voter registration efforts in several swing states, including Florida, where Hispanic voters can influence an election. Others include Colorado, Nevada, Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina.
To identify and register Hispanic voters, NCLR canvassers will go door-to-door, online through its "Latino Vote" app and a new program to identify high school seniors becoming eligible to vote. About 1 million Latinos turn 18 years of age each year.
Joining Murguia were several local Hispanic elected officials and community organizers.
"If we don't vote, we don't reach our political potential as a community," said Miami Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz.